Gravity might amplify quantum fluctuations, create astrophysical objects

May 17, 2010 by Lisa Zyga report

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a new study, physicists have proposed that gravity could trigger a runaway effect in quantum fluctuations, causing them to grow so large that the quantum field’s vacuum energy density could dominate its classical energy density. This vacuum-dominance effect, which emerges under some specific but reasonable conditions, contrasts with the widely held belief that the influence of gravity on quantum phenomena should be small and subdominant.

Daniel Vanzella and William Lima of the University of São Paulo in Brazil have suggested the new idea in a study published in a recent issue of .

The concept is based on the idea that virtual particles are continually popping into and out of existence in empty space. Vanzella and Lima propose that a powerful gravitational field - such as one that exists near a neutron star - could create a region of many virtual particles densely packed together. The of the virtual particles might grow to become even larger than the energy of the neutron star, or other object that generated the .

At this size, the vacuum energy of the quantum field could possibly influence astrophysical processes. For example, it could play a role in the collapse of which would lead to the formation of black holes, or in structure formation during cosmological expansion.

If the vacuum-dominance effect exists and is strong enough to have such consequences, scientists will still have to discover a new kind of that would react to gravity in this way, since none of the quantum fields based on known forces could induce these effects. Still, the physicists note that the possibility of vacuum dominance itself is surprising to discover within “a simple and classically well-behaved situation.”

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More information: Daniel Vanzella and William Lima. “Gravity-Induced Vacuum Dominance.” Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 161102 (2010). Doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.161102.

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JRDarby
1 / 5 (1) May 17, 2010
I'm not as knowledgeable as a lot of you on astrophysics so maybe this is a stupid question (and pardon me if so). But is this saying that gravity can both cause astrophysical objects as well as these astrophysical objects causing gravitational fields? As in, the chicken causes the egg causes the chicken so to speak?
akotlar
4.5 / 5 (4) May 17, 2010
It isn't a chicken an egg problem. Quantum theory states more or less that due to energy fluctuation in the zero-point energy of a vacuum, given a long enough period of time, any size mass could spontaneously come into existence. "Virtual particles" are simply spontaneously created matter-antimatter pairs, that very quickly annihilate themselves, although that doesn't hold in some situations, the most notable is quantum vacuum fluctuations at the Schwarzchild radius (leading to Hawking radiation). This is just saying that effect is amplified in the presence of gravity.

The "create astrophysical objects" bit is sensationalist. If the presence of strong gravity somehow allowed for the creation of large non-annihilating masses we would have stars spontaneously forming around black holes, and probably detectable mass around our sun & other small bodies. Anything that was created would be destroyed very quickly.
shockr
4 / 5 (4) May 17, 2010
So if I read this right, it suggest that with a large enough gravitational field, it is possible to generate more energy in the zero-point energy vacuum, than the energy required for the gravitational field in the first place?

If that's the case, why aren't we jumping on this as an energy source?
akotlar
1 / 5 (1) May 17, 2010
Thinking about it a bit more, it seems that virtual particles near any matter, no matter how small in magnitude, would steal gravitational potential from that object, and upon recombination inject more energy from the vacuum than they took.

This sounds to me indistinguishable from a radiating body.

So if I read this right, it suggest that with a large enough gravitational field, it is possible to generate more energy in the zero-point energy vacuum, than the energy required for the gravitational field in the first place?

If that's the case, why aren't we jumping on this as an energy source?


No, it would simply be a 1 way energy transfer to the virtual pair.

But taking energy from fluctuations in zero point energy does sound a lot like energy creation. It is way over my head, but from what I understand it would basically be like extracting energy from the vacuum reservoir, not energy creation.
Mercury_01
3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2010
It sounds like with enough spacial/ gravitational distortion, an inequality is created that allows for the outpouring of vacuum energy. Any decent ufologist could have written this article. I love it.
shockr
1 / 5 (1) May 18, 2010
Mercury 01, that's just what I was thinking.
ZeroX
1 / 5 (3) May 18, 2010
...powerful gravitational field ... could create a region of many virtual particles densely packed together. The energy density of the virtual particles might grow to become even larger than the energy of the neutron star, or other object that generated the gravitational field.... the possibility of vacuum dominance itself is surprising to discover within "a simple and classically well-behaved"
In dense aether theory this effect is nothing new and it forms one of plural explanations of so called cold dark matter (i.e. the portion of dark matter, which doesn't manifest by observable massive particles).

Such model has many illustrative social analogies, too - for example every sufficiently controversial theory (like the aether or AGW hypothesis) which exhibits gradient of information density (it enables to explain many things at the same moment or it simply affects global economy) attracts many proponents from both camps, which are fighting together at the boundary of theory.
ZeroX
3 / 5 (6) May 18, 2010
In mechanics every tension creates ripples and cracks, fast temperature of pressure changes during explosions produces Wilson clouds (positive gradients) or cavitation bubbles (negative gradients), in biology the increased concentration of prey attract predators, the decreased concentration of predators attract preys, on the web information gradient leads to development of many new protocols, etc... For example rich people, cities or countries attract many people into its neighborhood. Many stock-jobbers are attracted to gradients, i.e. fluctuations of price, etc.

All these examples are simply the expression of the fact, we are living in gradient driven reality (only the fluctuations inside of random gas form the visible portion of that gas, or are able to spread transversal waves at distance) - so that every gradient makes our reality more pronounced, dense and "real". I presume, these examples could help people to understand, what the dense aether theory is about.
Mercury_01
1 / 5 (2) May 19, 2010
What theyll find next is that a sufficiently warped magnetic gradient over a small enough space can accomplish the same thing. Counter rotating fields at certain ratios to each other release vacuum energy and charged particles.