Cosmology Intelligent Design

Sabine Hossenfelder despairs over vacuum energy. Rob Sheldon responds

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We bet that our favorite theoretical physicist will pull through but here’s her own account:

If we leave aside gravity, we can’t measure absolute energies. We only ever measure energy differences. You probably remember this from your electronics class, you never measure the electric potential energy, you measure differences in it, which is what makes currents flow. It’s like you have a long list of height comparisons, Peter is 2 inch taller than Mary and Mary is one inch taller than Bob and Bob is 5 inch smaller than Alice. But you don’t know anyone’s absolute height. Energies are like that.

Now, this is generally the case, that you can only measure energy differences – as long as you ignore gravity. Because all kinds of energies have a gravitational pull, and for that gravitational pull it’s the absolute energy that matters, not the relative one.

So it really only becomes relevant to talk about absolute energies in general relativity, Einstein’s theory for gravity. Yes, that guy again. Now, if we want to find out the absolute value of energies, we need to do this only for one case, because we know the energy differences. Think of the height-comparisons. If you know all the relative heights, you only need to measure the absolute height of one person, say Paul, to know all the absolute heights. In General Relativity, we don’t measure Paul, we measure the vacuum …

What’s this all got to do with vacuum fluctuations? Nothing. And that’s where physicists get very confused. You see, we cannot calculate this measureable vacuum energy-density which appears in general relativity. It’s a constant that we infer from observations and that’s that.

Sabine Hossenfelder, “Physicist Despairs over Vacuum Energy” at BackRe(Action)

Experimental physicist Rob Sheldon responds,

Sabine says over and over again that the problem is that physicists confuse metaphysics and physics. Which is true. But that doesn’t mean they can stop doing it. Because Sabine does it too. It’s like complaining that news sources are biassed. Of course they are. But that doesn’t mean they can stop being biassed.

What Sabine needs to do, is pick her metaphysics and be open with it. She’s a materialist, and that’s a problem for physics. And it affects the dark energy calculation. And lots of other calculations. Including her pet “measurement of lambda” issue being a materialist factoid with no metaphysical input.

Here’s Hossenfelder on the measurement of lambda.

With your morning coffee: These specialty controversies are an interesting backdrop to the current war on math. Sabine Hossenfelder and Rob Sheldon would likely agree that 2 + 2 = 4. But survey the vast degreed hordes for whom such a statement is an instance of white supremacy and colonialism and we will see the real problem facing our civilization: Far too many people have degrees (and grievances!) but no insight into what knowledge is.

7 Replies to “Sabine Hossenfelder despairs over vacuum energy. Rob Sheldon responds

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    What I find ironic is that we have contributors here who are not professional physicists laying down the law to professional physicists about where they are going wrong. Now, if professional quantum physicists tell me, yes, we have a mathematical theory that is extremely good at predicting results but we have no idea what is going on beyond that, the various interpretations are called interpretations because that’s all they are, who should I believe? Journalists?

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    Seversky,
    Professional physicists? You should read Dr, Hossenfelder’s book, Lost In Math : How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. Here’s your “professional” physicist telling other professional physicists where they are going wrong.

    What books have you read on quantum mechanics?

    -Q

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    I’m not exactly sure the reasoning for the comment at one…

    KF has degrees in physics if I’m not mistaken Rob Sheldon is a physicist

    And there are multiple contributors on the site that have educational backgrounds in neuroscience and other sciences as well as in professions

    Sabine for example Is usually celebrated on the site by most of the contributors which share a lot of her views

    It is only when she starts going into philosophical arguments for determinism and free will that there are major disagreements

    Now if you’re talking about Jerry Coyne on the other hand that’s a totally different story

    That man actually thinks he can extend his expertise in his one field into everything else fallaciously

    So everybody should layith the smackith down upon him Indiscriminately and with extreme prejudice

    Although recently I’ve been finding myself agreeing with him on certain topics

  4. 4
    News says:

    Seversky at 1: Rob Sheldon is an experimental physicist. He does experiments on contract for various agencies. But he has taught physics at the U level so is familiar with theoretical issues.

  5. 5
    Querius says:

    AaronS1978 @3,

    Sabine for example Is usually celebrated on the site by most of the contributors which share a lot of her views. It is only when she starts going into philosophical arguments for determinism and free will that there are major disagreements

    Yes, I really appreciate Dr. Hossenfelder’s clear, no-nonsense explanations and her demands for experimental evidence. Her allegiance to materialism is kind of silly in context.

    As I mentioned in another thread, this is why I liked Quantum Entanglement and The Loss of Reality by Thomas Marcella. Unlike many other authors on the subject, he comes to the table without an intent to force QM into any a priori ideological convictions.

    This is refreshing, especially in light of many other authors’ tortuous explanations of how QM fits into classical physics, which it plainly doesn’t. He also doesn’t spin out of control into cosmic humanism, either, but remains close to the observed facts and simplest conclusions from the evidence currently available.

    He needs to be working with a good editor, though.

    -Q

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Sabine Hossenfelder starts out her article with this claim,

    Vacuum energy is all around us, it makes the universe expand with quantum fluctuations, and before you know they’re talking about energy chakras and quantum healing. Even many physicists and science writers are very, very confused about what vacuum energy is. But don’t despair, at the end of this video you’ll know why it’s not what you were told it is.

    Hossenfelder’s main claim, and/or gripe, is that vacuum energy is a constant, and is not a ‘internal energy’ as it is commonly envisioned to be,

    Now, as we have seen, the energy-density of the vacuum, Lambda, is just a constant. The total energy is just the density times the volume. This mean, if the volume increases, because the universe expands, but the energy density of the vacuum is constant, then the amount of vacuum energy increases with the volume. If you identify this energy with the internal energy of a gas, this means delta U has to be positive, and if Delta V is also positive, because space expands, this can only be if the pressure is negative.
    And this is correct. If you associate a pressure with the vacuum, then that pressure is negative. However, the problem with this explanation is that the vacuum energy is not an internal energy, it’s a total energy, and the vacuum energy is not a gas in any meaningful way because it’s not made of anything, and how you get from the ideal gas analogy to the expansion of the universe I don’t know.
    So I don’t want to call this answer wrong, but I think it’s misleading.,,,

    So I am holding that Hossenfelder holds vacuum energy to be real but that her main gripe is that it should be considered a constant instead of being considered an ‘internal energy’.

    Wikipedia defines vacuum energy as such,

    Vacuum energy is an underlying background energy that exists in space throughout the entire Universe.[1] The vacuum energy is a special case of zero-point energy that relates to the quantum vacuum.[2]
    – per wikipedia

    People who believe vacuum energy to be real usually point to the Casimir Effect as supposedly definitive experimental proof for the existence of vacuum energy (and/or zero point energy, and/or quantum foam).

    What is the Casimir Effect?
    The Casimir effect is a small attractive force that acts between two close parallel uncharged conducting plates. It is caused by quantum vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.
    The effect was predicted by the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir in 1948. According to quantum theory, the vacuum contains virtual particles which are in a continuous state of fluctuation (see physics FAQ article on virtual particles). Casimir realised that between two plates, only those virtual photons whose wavelengths fit a whole number of times into the gap should be counted when calculating the vacuum energy. The energy density decreases as the plates are moved closer together, which implies that there is a small force drawing them together.
    https://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/casimir.html

    Yet, the Casimir Effect is not definitive experimental proof for vacuum energy (and/or zero point energy, and/or quantum foam).

    As the following article states, “Casimir effects can be formulated and Casimir forces can be computed without reference to zero-point energies.,,, In fact, the description in terms of van der Waals forces is the only correct description from the fundamental microscopic perspective,[20][21] while other descriptions of Casimir force are merely effective macroscopic descriptions.”

    Casimir effect – Relativistic van der Waals force
    Excerpt: Alternatively, a 2005 paper by Robert Jaffe of MIT states that “Casimir effects can be formulated and Casimir forces can be computed without reference to zero-point energies. They are relativistic, quantum forces between charges and currents. The Casimir force (per unit area) between parallel plates vanishes as alpha, the fine structure constant, goes to zero, and the standard result, which appears to be independent of alpha, corresponds to the alpha approaching infinity limit,” and that “The Casimir force is simply the (relativistic, retarded) van der Waals force between the metal plates.”[18] Casimir and Polder’s original paper used this method to derive the Casimir-Polder force. In 1978, Schwinger, DeRadd, and Milton published a similar derivation for the Casimir Effect between two parallel plates.[19] In fact, the description in terms of van der Waals forces is the only correct description from the fundamental microscopic perspective,[20][21] while other descriptions of Casimir force are merely effective macroscopic descriptions.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect#Relativistic_van_der_Waals_force

    In fact, besides the Casimir Effect not being definitive experimental proof for vacuum energy, there are a number of negative experimental results that argue against the existence of vacuum energy.

    As the following 2009 article found, “a detailed analysis of the GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) in question demonstrated that photons of all energies arrived at essentially the same time. Consequently, these results falsify any quantum gravity models requiring the simplest form of a frothy space.”

    GRBs Expand Astronomers’ Toolbox – Nov. 2009
    Excerpt: a detailed analysis of the GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) in question demonstrated that photons of all energies arrived at essentially the same time. Consequently, these results falsify any quantum gravity models requiring the simplest form of a frothy space.
    https://nhiemstra.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/grbs-expand-astronomers-toolbox/

    And as the following 2013 article found, “If this foam indeed exists, the three photons should have been knocked around a bit during their epic voyage. In such a scenario, the chances of all three reaching the Fermi telescope at virtually the same time are very low, researchers said. So the new study is a strike against the foam’s existence as currently imagined,,, “If foaminess exists at all, we think it must be at a scale far smaller than the Planck length,””

    Quantum Foam Paper Suggests Einstein Was Right About Space-Time Being ‘Smooth’ – January 2013
    Excerpt: It appears Albert Einstein may have been right yet again.
    A team of researchers came to this conclusion after tracing the long journey three photons took through intergalactic space. The photons were blasted out by an intense explosion known as a gamma-ray burst about 7 billion light-years from Earth. They finally barreled into the detectors of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in May 2009, arriving just a millisecond apart.
    Their dead-heat finish strongly supports the Einsteinian view of space-time, researchers said. The wavelengths of gamma-ray burst photons are so small that they should be able to interact with the even tinier “bubbles” in the quantum theorists’ proposed space-time foam.
    If this foam indeed exists, the three photons should have been knocked around a bit during their epic voyage. In such a scenario, the chances of all three reaching the Fermi telescope at virtually the same time are very low, researchers said. So the new study is a strike against the foam’s existence as currently imagined,,, “If foaminess exists at all, we think it must be at a scale far smaller than the Planck length,”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....49734.html

    And as the following 2015 article found, “This finding indicates that the photons all moved at the same speed, even though different photons had different energies.,,, The fact that all the photons with different energies arrived with no time delay relative to each other indicates that such a foamy structure, if it exists at all, has a much smaller size than previously expected.”

    Confirming Einstein, scientists find ‘spacetime foam’ not slowing down photons from faraway gamma-ray burst (Update) – Mar 16, 2015
    Excerpt: Albert Einstein formulated the general theory of relativity, one of the theory’s basic assumptions: the idea that all light particles, or photons, propagate at exactly the same speed.,,
    The researchers analyzed data, obtained by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, of the arrival times of photons from a distant gamma-ray burst. The data showed that photons traveling for billions of years from the distant burst toward Earth all arrived within a fraction of a second of each other.
    This finding indicates that the photons all moved at the same speed, even though different photons had different energies. This is one of the best measurements ever of the independence of the speed of light from the energy of the light particles.,,,
    One of the attempts to reconcile the two theories (Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity) is the idea of “space-time foam.” According to this concept, on a microscopic scale space is not continuous, and instead it has a foam-like structure. The size of these foam elements is so tiny that it is difficult to imagine and is at present impossible to measure directly. However light particles that are traveling within this foam will be affected by the foamy structure, and this will cause them to propagate at slightly different speeds depending on their energy.
    The fact that all the photons with different energies arrived with no time delay relative to each other indicates that such a foamy structure, if it exists at all, has a much smaller size than previously expected.
    “When we began our analysis, we didn’t expect to obtain such a precise measurement,” said Prof. Tsvi Piran, the Schwartzmann University Chair at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics and a leader of the research. “This new limit is at the level expected from quantum gravity theories.
    http://phys.org/news/2015-03-e.....-foam.html

    And as the following 2015 article entitled, “NASA telescopes set limits on space-time quantum ‘foam'”,
    stated, “We can conclude that spacetime is less foamy than some models predict.”
    The X-ray and gamma-ray data show that spacetime is smooth down to distances 1,000 times smaller than the nucleus of a hydrogen atom.

    NASA telescopes set limits on space-time quantum ‘foam’ – May, 28. 2015
    Excerpt: At the smallest scales of distance and duration that we can measure, spacetime—that is, the three dimensions of space plus time—appears to be smooth and structureless. However, certain aspects of quantum mechanics, the highly successful theory scientists have developed to explain the physics of atoms and subatomic particles, predict that spacetime would not be smooth. Rather, it would have a foamy, jittery nature and would consist of many small, ever-changing, regions for which space and time are no longer definite, but fluctuate.,,,
    Chandra’s X-ray detection of quasars at distances of billions of light-years rules out one model, according to which photons diffuse randomly through spacetime foam in a manner similar to light diffusing through fog. Detections of distant quasars at shorter, gamma-ray wavelengths with Fermi and even shorter wavelengths with VERITAS demonstrate that a second, so-called holographic model with less diffusion does not work.
    “We find that our data can rule out two different models for spacetime foam,” said co-author Jack Ng of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. “We can conclude that spacetime is less foamy than some models predict.”
    The X-ray and gamma-ray data show that spacetime is smooth down to distances 1,000 times smaller than the nucleus of a hydrogen atom.
    http://phys.org/news/2015-05-n.....antum.html

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, without any definitive experimental proof for vacuum energy, (and/or ‘quantum fluctuations’), these leaves atheistic astrophysicists in quite the pinch.

    In the following article three atheistic astrophysicists stated that “The question then is whether the origin of the universe can be a naturally occurring fluctuation, or must it be due to an external agent which starts the system out in a specific low entropy state?”

    They also argued against there being a ‘true cosmological constant’ since if we lived in a universe with a ‘true cosmological constant’ then, in their opinion, that would mean “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.,,,”, and they also stated a true cosmological constant would indicate that, “A unknown agent [external to time and space] intervened [in cosmic history] for reasons of its own.,,,”

    Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant – Dyson, Kleban, Susskind (each are self proclaimed atheists) – 2002
    Excerpt: “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.,,,”
    “The question then is whether the origin of the universe can be a naturally occurring fluctuation, or must it be due to an external agent which starts the system out in a specific low entropy state?”
    page 19: “A unknown agent [external to time and space] intervened [in cosmic history] for reasons of its own.,,,”
    Page 21 “The only reasonable conclusion is that we don’t live in a universe with a true cosmological constant”.
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0208013.pdf

    Astrophysicist Hugh Ross comments on the ‘disturbing implications’ that “dark energy” had given those three atheistic astrophysicists at the 6:09 minute mark of the following video

    Astrophysicist Hugh Ross – Incredible Astronomical Discoveries & Dark Energy – 2018 video
    https://youtu.be/c9J9r7mdB6Q?t=367
    Of note, as Dr. Ross noted, Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind withdrew their paper from consideration when the empirical evidence for a ‘true cosmological constant’ became overwhelming.

    Stephen Hawking, (and Lawrence Krauss), have both also appealed to the supposed existence of vacuum energy, (and/or ‘quantum fluctuations’), as evidence that the universe can be supposedly pop into existence out of ‘nothing’ (Krauss) without reference to God.

    Yet in 2018 Hugh Ross observed that “,,,the (quantum fluctuation) model that Hawking is proposing for the origins of the Universe is problematic in light of modern astronomical observations.,,,
    “Recent observations showing that the images of distant quasars and blazars are not blurry, but rather are sharp, constrain the size of these quantum space-time fluctuations. The fluctuations are not large enough to escape the need for a Creator who creates space and time or for the universe to have a finite age.”

    Stephen Hawking Says Nothing Existed Before Big Bang; Christian Astrophysicist Hugh Ross Responds – By Michael Gryboski – Mar 5, 2018
    Excerpt: Ross responded that while Hawking was correct that “time has a beginning,” nevertheless “the beginning of time demands a Causal Agent capable of creating time independent of time. It is not enough to simply speculate that imaginary time also exists.”,,,
    ,,,the (quantum fluctuation) model that Hawking is proposing for the origins of the Universe is problematic in light of modern astronomical observations.,,,
    “Recent observations showing that the images of distant quasars and blazars are not blurry, but rather are sharp, constrain the size of these quantum space-time fluctuations. The fluctuations are not large enough to escape the need for a Creator who creates space and time or for the universe to have a finite age.”
    https://www.christianpost.com/news/stephen-hawking-nothing-existed-before-big-bang-christian-astrophysicist-hugh-ross-220309/

    All these negative experimental results that argue against the reality of vacuum energy, besides leaving these atheistic astrophysicists without a viable mechanism to explain the origin of the universe, also leave these atheistic astrophysicists without any viable mechanism so as to be able to explain the expansion of the universe.

    Vacuum Energy, or Einstein’s Blunder
    If Las Vegas were taking bets on dark energy, the odds would favor a concept known as vacuum energy or the cosmological constant. In essence, it suggests that space itself produces energy, which is “pushing” the universe outward.,,,
    Today, physicists explain the cosmological constant as the vacuum energy of space.
    In essence, this says that pairs of particles are constantly popping into existence throughout the universe. These “virtual pairs” consist of one particle with a negative charge and one with a positive charge. They exist for only a tiny fraction of a second before they collide and annihilate each other in a tiny burst of energy. This energy may be pushing outward on space itself, causing the universe to accelerate faster.
    https://hetdex.org/dark_energy/what_is_it/vacuum_energy.html

    Whereas on the other hand, the Christian Theist is, once again, found to be sitting quite comfortably in regards to the experimental evidence that we now have in hand that argues against the reality of vacuum energy.

    Specifically he following site list several verses that speak of God ‘stretching out the heavens’

    Bible References to God Stretching Out the Heavens

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens _ and treads on the waves of the sea.

    Psalm 104:2
    The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; _ he stretches out the heavens like a tent

    Isaiah 40:22
    He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, _ and its people are like grasshoppers. _He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, _ and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

    Isaiah 42:5
    This is what God the LORD says_the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, _ who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, _ who gives breath to its people, _ and life to those who walk on it

    Isaiah 44:24
    This is what the LORD says _ your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, _ the Maker of all things, _ who stretches out the heavens, _ who spreads out the earth by myself,

    Isaiah 45:12
    It is I who made the earth _ and created mankind on it. _My own hands stretched out the heavens; _ I marshaled their starry hosts.

    Isaiah 48:13
    My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, _ and my right hand spread out the heavens; _when I summon them, _ they all stand up together.

    Isaiah 51:13
    that you forget the LORD your Maker, _ who stretches out the heavens _ and who lays the foundations of the earth, _that you live in constant terror every day _ because of the wrath of the oppressor, _ who is bent on destruction?

    Jeremiah 10:12
    But God made the earth by his power; _ he founded the world by his wisdom _ and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

    Jeremiah 51:15
    He made the earth by his power; _ he founded the world by his wisdom _ and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

    Zechariah 12:1
    The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares:,,,
    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g.....retch.html

    Being a Christian, and since it alludes to ‘treads on the waves of the sea’, the following verse is my favorite verse out of the group of verses:

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

    So thus in conclusion, although Sabine Hossenfelder, (like everyone else), seems to believe in the physical reality of ‘vacuum energy’, several negative experimental results have brought into question the reality of vacuum energy and have left atheistic astrophysicists without any viable mechanism to explain the origin or expansion of the universe. Whereas, on the other hand. the Christian Theist is, once again, found to be sitting quite comfortably in regards to the experimental evidence that we now have in hand.

    Why am I not surprised?

    Semi related quotes and verse:

    “My argument,” Dr. Penzias concluded, “is that the best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I had nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
    – Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics – co-discoverer Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation – as stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    – Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discoverer Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    – Fred Heeren, Show Me God (Wheeling, Ill.: Daystar, 2000),

    The question of ‘the beginning’ is as inescapable for cosmologists as it is for theologians…there is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing”
    – George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time, 1993, p.189. – George Smoot is a Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    Genesis 1:1-3
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

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