Photons out of empty space

consciousnessPhotons out of empty space

Michael Brooks based on Chris Wilson et al, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg

New Scientist, 19 November 2011

A recent experiment by Chris Wilson et al at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg serves to substantiate the prediction that energy in the form of photons could be derived from empty space. The prediction was based on uncertainty principle, which does not permit permanent zero energy, but specifies a fluctuation between zero and a small amount of energy. This comes in the form of virtual photons that jump in and out of existence, but can become real photons if they absorb energy.

The existence of these photons had already been inferred from the Casimir effect. In this, with metal plates very close to one another, longer wave length photons are excluded from the space between the plates, and as a result there is an inward pressure on the plates indicating the energy of the vacuum.

The Wilson experiment has gone beyond inference to the actual production of real photons from the vacuum. To achieve this, Wilson et al used a superconducting electrical circuit with an oscillator, which resulted in alterations in the distance an electron had to travel through the circuit. The alteration meant that the electron was doing the equivalent of travelling at a quarter of the speed of light. This proved sufficient for the kinetic energy of the electron to turn some of the virtual photons into real photons.

Conclusion:  This is important in terms of how we conceive of spacetime, indicating that spacetime is a reality rather than an abstraction, and also that it is a reality in terms of discrete elements such as the virtual photons discussed here. This may make it more plausible to think in terms of spacetime having a fundamental measurement or geometry that can be related to a fundamental property of consciousness.

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