The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Zero-Point Energy

As a consequence of quantum uncertainty, Planck and Heisenberg proved that at that scale, the vacuum of empty space is actually "full" of all sorts of subtle events. If you remove all particles, i.e. you have absolute certainty about the position of particles, then you know nothing about momentum and therefore about energy. There has to be a minimum amount of energy: the zero-point energy. Or, better: kinetic and potential energy cannot both be zero at the same time. If one is zero, the other one cannot be zero. The total is therefore always more than zero, even in a vacuum with no particles.

In 1930 Paul Dirac speculated that the all-pervading vacuum must actually be filled with particles that continuously appear and disappear in a random way. They live very short lives (limited by Heisenberg's principle), but the total effect of their brief existence is a fluctuation of energy in the vacuum. Thus the "vacuum" is not empty at all, and it actually generates some energy.  In fact, one could view the vacuum as a warehouse where all possible particles have been stored, and occasionally they may become “real” (i.e., observable).

  The way to create the vacuum is to lower the temperature to the absolute zero: this gets rid of any radiation. The energy produced by the vacuum is thus called the "zero-point energy".  For example, helium near the absolute zero does not freeze, because the vacuum "warms it up" with its zero-point energy. 

The Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir even showed how this all-pervading zero-point energy could be detected (“On The Attraction Between Two Perfectly Conducting Plates,” 1948); and, in 1996, was finally detected what is now known as the "Casimir effect". The zero-point energy itself cannot be measured precisely, but a “change” in the zero-point energy can be measured precisely. The Casimir effect turns out to be inversely proportional to the fourth power of the distance.

Energy is everywhere, and, therefore, potentially, there is a lot of it. Alas, that energy cannot be used because “using” it would reduce the amount of the zero-point energy, which is, by definition, impossible.

This was the culmination of the eccentricities of Quantum Theory: that the vacuum was not empty.

Thus Quantum Theory predicts that the universe exists on a grid of spacetime values, and that there is something within the elements of this grid, something that does not quite belong to the universe (or, at least, does not belong to Quantum Physics) but has nonetheless an energy that can interact with the universe (be detected by people living on the grid of our universe).

 


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