The vacuum catastrophe is name given to the disagreement of over 100 orders of magnitude between measured values of the vacuum energy density and the theoretical zero-point energy predicted by Quantum Field Theory. This discrepancy has been described as “the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics.”
The effects of vacuum energy can be experimentally observed in various phenomena such as the accelerated expansion of the universe and the Casmir effect.
Unfortunately as was just mentioned there is a very large discrepancy between the values observed for the Casmir made by Quantum Field Theory and those of vacuum energy that it assumes is responsible for the universe’s expansion.
For example the Casimir effect is a small attractive or repulsive force which acts between two close parallel-uncharged conducting plates, which many physicists believe is due to quantum vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.
According to modern quantum theory, a vacuum is full of fluctuating electromagnetic waves of all possible wavelengths, which imbue it with a vast amount of energy. Casimir realized that between two plates, only those electromagnetic waves whose wavelengths fit a whole number of times into the gap should be counted when calculating the vacuum energy. As the gap between the plates is narrowed, fewer waves can contribute to the vacuum energy and so the energy density between the plates falls below the energy density of the surrounding space. This generates either an attractive or a repulsive force depending on the specific arrangement of the two plates. This is because Quantum theory requires that each of these vibration be quantized and therefore the field, at each point in space would be a simple harmonic oscillator that has the energy of the particle associated with the force that Casimir observed to be pushing the plates together.
However as was just mentioned there is very large discrepancy between the observed vacuum energy density quantum mechanics associates with the Casmir effect that it associates with our expanding universe.
Nevertheless one may be able to understand why if instead of deriving vacuum or zero point energy purely from a mathematical perspective as Quantum Field Theory does one derives it from the observations associated with the Casimir effect.
For example in the article â€Why is mass and energy quantized?â€œ Oct.4, 2007 it was shown that one can derive the quantum mechanical properties of energy/mass and electromagnetic waves by extrapolating the laws of classical resonance in a three-dimensional environment to matter wave in four *spatial* dimension.
(Louis de Broglie was the first to predict the existence of wave properties of a when he theorized that all particles have a wave component. His theories were confirmed by the discovery of electron diffraction by crystals in 1927 by Davisson and Germer.)
(Einstein gave us the ability to do this when he used the constant velocity of light to define the geometric properties of space-time because it allows one to convert a unit of time in his four dimensional space-time universe to a unit of space in a one consisting of only four *spatial* dimensions. Additionally because the velocity of light is constant it is possible to mathematically derive a one to one correspondence between his space-time universe and one made up of four *spatial* dimensions.)
Briefly, that article showed the four conditions required for resonance to occur in a classical environment, an object, or substance with a natural frequency, a forcing function at the same frequency as the natural frequency, the lack of a damping frequency and the ability for the substance to oscillate spatial would occur in one composed of four.
The existence of four *spatial* dimensions would give the field properties of energy/mass (the substance) the ability to oscillate spatially on a “surface” between a third and fourth *spatial* dimensions thereby fulfilling one of the requirements for classical resonance to occur.
These oscillations would be caused by an event such as the decay of a subatomic particle or the shifting of an electron in an atomic orbital. This would force the “surface” of a three-dimensional space manifold with respect to a fourth *spatial* dimension to oscillate with the frequency associated with the energy of that event.
However, the oscillations caused by such an event would serve as forcing function allowing a resonant system or “structure” to be established in a field consisting energy/mass.
Additionally it also tells us why in terms of the physical properties four dimensional space-time or four *spatial* dimensions an electron cannot fall into the nucleus is because, as was shown in that article all energy is contained in four dimensional resonant systems. In other words the energy released by an electron “falling” into it would have to manifest itself in terms of a resonate system. Since the fundamental or lowest frequency available for a stable resonate system in either four dimensional space-time or four spatial dimension corresponds to the energy of an electron it becomes one of the fundamental energy units of the universe.
However it can also be shown they are responsible for the Casimir effect because observations of resonant systems in a classical environment indicate the number of simple harmonic oscillators that can be established in a given environment is dependent on the distance or “gap” between the “end points” of their environments.
But this same concept can be applied to two uncharged metallic plates in a vacuum, because even without an external electromagnetic field the electromagnetic components of the atoms in each plate are vibrating or have thermal energy because they are not at absolute zero. These random vibrations of their electromagnetic components will result in a random electromagnetic field to be generated between the plates.
However, classical wave mechanics tells us these random electromagnetic vibrations would be reinforced only at certain points in space. The number of simple harmonic oscillators in the space between two plates formed by this reinforcement would decreases as the gap between them decreases. In other words, the smaller the gap between the plates the fewer number of quantum fields or particles that gap could support.
This means as was shown in the article â€Why is energy/mass quantized?â€œ there will be a greater number simple harmonic oscillators impacting the plates from outside of the gap than between it. This will cause a force that will push the plates together because the energy density associated with the harmonic oscillations outside of the gap would be greater than inside of it.
However, it also tells us there will be also be places where the distance between the plates will be equal to the wavelength associated with a fundamental or harmonic of the fundamental frequency of these oscillations. At those distances their energy will reinforce force each other and push them apart.
Therefore, if one assumes as us done here that the quantum mechanical properties of energy/mass are a result of a resonant system in four *spatial* dimension one can understand why the specific arrangement of the two plates causes an attractive or repulsive force to be developed by extrapolating the properties of a three-dimensional environment to a fourth *spatial* dimension.
However it also shows the reason zero-point energy predicted by quantum mechanics is so much higher than what is observed in the Casmir effect is because, according to it each zero point mode of oscillation is subject to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. That produces a tiny amount of energy in each point, but the number of modes is enormous. Since energy density is mathematically determined by multiplying the density of modes times the energy per mode the product of the tiny point source of energy times the huge spatial density of modes yields a very high theoretical zero-point energy density per cubic centimeter.
Yet as was shown above the Casmir effect may not be the result of the summation of a large number of individual zero point harmonic oscillators acting individually but only those that are defined by a fundamental resonant property of space and distance between the plates. In other words every point in space may not experience random fluctuations as is required by quantum field theory but instead it may have a fundamental oscillating frequency that requires a volume that is larger that of a single point.
In other words the magnitude of vacuum energy would be defined by the fundamental harmonic of space and not by the random fluctuations associated with the zero point energy of a quantum vacuum.
However one can use the known the value for both the Casmir effect and as mentioned earlier the accelerated expansion of the universe to mathematically determine the energy associated with that fundamental harmonic and determine if it agrees with the observed value of each.
This would give one the ability to experimentally verify or falsify the hypotheses outlined above because as was mentioned earlier vacuum energy is assumed not only responsible for the Casimir effect but also for the accelerated expansion of the universe.
Copyright Jeffrey O’Callaghan 2016