Feeds

Boffins flick Quantum vacuum switch from suck to blow

Goldenballs will power gecko hoverships, raygun gloves

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Cartoon-loving boffins from University of St Andrews believe they have found a way to reverse the "Casimir force" which causes really small things to stick to each other. This has been widely written up, usually with the word "levitation" in the headline.

The University press release notes that:

"Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin of the University's School of Physics & Astronomy believe that they can engineer the Casimir force of quantum physics to cause an object to repel rather than attract another in a vacuum.

"Casimir force (discovered in 1948 and first measured in 1997) can be demonstrated in a gecko's ability to stick to a surface with just one toe ..."

This suggests some truly exciting possibilities. Firstly, that boffins used geckoes to demonstrate the Casimir force in '97, after taking 49 years to notice them; and secondly that the Scottish-based researchers have now found a way to make gecko feet frictionless rather than sticky - or even that geckoes, at any rate, could be made to levitate.

This raises visions of a beautiful but perhaps ethically troubling future with mighty hover vessels plying the skies, lifted on the backs of hundreds of genetically or surgically modified ground-repelling geckoes. No doubt in time some kind of squamatan-effects coating or generator would replace the early aerial gecko-galleons but in the meantime the potential for lizard abuse would be horrific.

Perhaps fortunately, hopes of hovering mid-air geckoes or even comically slippery skating ones are dashed as soon as one looks at the scientists' own webpage, rather than the university press office one.

The boffins do their best to jazz things up with a few gratuitous Incredibles stills, but the bad news is all too plain. Geckoes can stick to ceilings - even glass ones, apparently, of the type metaphorically encountered by upward-bound female biz execs - due to the Van der Waals force between temporary dipoles in molecules. The Casimir stickiness, seemingly, is caused "roughly speaking" by "difference in the pressure of the quantum vacuum."

Of course any fool knows about the quantum vacuum between all the atoms and molecules and stuff which make up the world around us. As the Scottish-based boffins say:

"Empty space is not empty, but is filled with the quantum vacuum ... The energy of the quantum vacuum, the 'zero-point energy,' is infinite according to our present theories. Clearly, this [is not true] - it would make the electromagnetic field infinitely massive, because [of] E=mc2. The empty electromagnetic field would collapse under the weight of its own gravity [and the entire universe would implode] ... Nevertheless, the zero-point energy results in perfectly finite and experimentally confirmed facts, for example the Casimir force."

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.