View Full Version : Debunk The Zero Point Field

03-17-2004, 08:54 AM
I recently read the book "The Field : The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe", by Lynne McTaggart.

Interesting as I found the concepts, I recognize that the book is written by an investigative journalist, rather than a hard scientist and contains some conclusions which may stretch the cited research. Additionally I am aware how easy it is to confuse the layman (me) with dressed up pseudo-science.

Have any other Dopers with a stronger grasp of science read this book, and if so did they feel that the science and its conclusions have any validity?

I have inserted the publishers blurb below to give people an idea of the Zero Point Field hypothesis.

McTaggart, an investigative journalist (What Doctors Don't Tell You), describes scientific discoveries that she believes point to a unifying concept of the universe, one that reconciles mind with matter, classic Newtonian science with quantum physics and, most importantly, science with religion. At issue is the zero point field, the so-called "dead space" of microscopic vibrations in outer space as well as within and between physical objects on earth. These fields, McTaggart asserts, are a "cobweb of energy exchange" that link everything in the universe; they control everything from cellular communication to the workings of the mind, and they could be harnessed for unlimited propulsion fuel, levitation, ESP, spiritual healing and more. Physicists have been aware of the likelihood of this field for years, McTaggart writes, but, constrained by orthodoxy, they have ignored its effects, which she likens to "subtracting out God" from their equations. But, McTaggart asserts, "tiny pockets of quiet rebellion" against scientific convention are emerging, led by Ed Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut and founder of the Institute for Noetic Sciences, an alternative-science think tank. McTaggart writes well and tells a good story, but the supporting data here is somewhat sketchy. Until it materializes, McTaggart may have to settle for being a voice in the wilderness.

PS I am aware that some of the 'higher' conclusions regarding God may very well be dismissed out of hand, however t is the validity of the (seemingly extensive) supporting scientific research that interests me.

03-17-2004, 10:41 AM
Classical mechanics (aka Newtonian mechanics) is a special case of quantum mechanics. The fact that the blurb mentions she thinks they need to be reconciled sets off my bullshit alarm.

03-17-2004, 10:50 AM
Well... not exactly. While physicists have demonstrated a certain "zero point" force (if we use a somewhat loose interpretation, the Casimir Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect) qualifies), it won't be useful for generating energy. The Casimir effect is a conservative force (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_force) (just like all the fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, etc...)), and as such, can't produce energy without consuming or abandoning some of our inputs). Just like you can't "produce" energy by pushing a rock up a hill and extracting the energy as it rolls back down, you can't produce energy by using the Casimir effect between metal plates (it takes at least as much energy to move the plates back apart as you extracted by bringing them together). If, somehow, the Casimir effect (or another similar effect) produced enough energy to pay for constructing the plates, then you could produce energy, but we're better off researching sources that use common and easily gathered materials.

Exapno Mapcase
03-17-2004, 12:04 PM
As a working writer, I have long and extensive training in the elusive language called Publisherese. Allow me to translate.

"This lady is a fruitcase, but the book should sell like hotcakes to the credulous."

03-17-2004, 06:22 PM
I haven't read the book, but a look ather website about it (http://www.wddty.co.uk/thefield/main.asp) strongly suggests that she's yet to meet a pseudoscientific claim she doesn't like. In general, good popular science books don't have an accompanying "48-part course in holistic living".

It appears she wants to appeal to quantum field theory as an explanation for the likes of ESP. Like most of the folks in these parts, as a generalisation, quantum field theorists also aren't particularly impressed by the evidence for the existence of ESP and the other subjects she wants to explain. She can waffle on all she wants about quantum mechanics, but it's all irrelevant if she's trying to explain stuff that doesn't exist. This isn't being "constained by orthodoxy", it's a matter of doing (very, very) interesting science about stuff that's for real, rather than wasting time.
Furthermore, her book is part of a long, deeply unoriginal pattern in pseudoscience by which people try to justify it by appealing to the latest "mysterious" physics. Once upon a time, it was magnetism that was meant to explain it all, later radio waves. For the last few decades, it's been quantum mechanics. McTaggart's only twist has been to realise that, if quantum mechanics is mysterious to most people, they're even more likely to be baffled by an appeal to quantum field theory.

Zero-point quantum fields do exist. I'm biased, but the whole subject of quantum field theory is interesting enough in its own right and well worth reading about in better books. Feynman's QED brilliantly manages to be both relatively simple and accurate. John Gribbin's books in the last decade or so also have the reputation of being sensible (though he went through an earlier weird period).

[Incidentally, McTaggart seems big on Fritz-Albert Popp and "mitogenic radiation", neither of which have I come across before. Any microbiologists able to lay out the Dope on them ?]

Exapno Mapcase
03-17-2004, 06:53 PM
Popp seems to want to prove the proposition that no matter how many degrees one has, one can be as kooky and unscientific as some posters on message boards.

He appears to be a leading proponent of/expert on biophotonics.

From the Active Liquid Minerals (http://www.active-colloidal-minerals.com/negative.htm) website:

All living organisms emit certain electro-magnetic waves. If they are in a healthy condition, they emit more. If not, they emit less. This phenomena is common to all forms of cells. This electromagnetic emission is called biophotons. In these tests "acetabularia mediterranea", a certain very sensitive algae from the Mediterranean Sea is used. This algae is so sensitive to ecological influences that there are scarcely any of these algae left in the Mediterranean. The test, using this form of algae, is a scientifically recognized method of determining whether or not a substance is toxic, or to what degree a substance is beneficial to cells. The test was carried out by one of the world's leading biophysicists, Dr. Fritz-Albert Popp.

More on Biophotons - The Light in Our Cells (http://www.transpersonal.de/mbischof/englisch/webbookeng.htm)
According to the biophoton theory developed on the base of these discoveries the biophoton light is stored in the cells of the organism - more precisely, in the DNA molecules of their nuclei - and a dynamic web of light constantly released and absorbed by the DNA may connect cell organelles, cells, tissues, and organs within the body and serve as the organism's main communication network and as the principal regulating instance for all life processes. The processes of morphogenesis, growth, differentiation and regeneration are also explained by the structuring and regulating activity of the coherent biophoton field. The holographic biophoton field of the brain and the nervous system, and maybe even that of the whole organism, may also be basis of memory and other phenomena of consciousness, as postulated by neurophysiologist Karl Pribram an others. The consciousness-like coherence properties of the biophoton field are closely related to its base in the properties of the physical vacuum and indicate its possible role as an interface to the non-physical realms of mind, psyche and consciousness.

I'm awed.

03-17-2004, 07:24 PM
Mitogenic Radiation is a product of "science" as practiced in the Old Soviet Union:
1923, A.G. Gurwitsch suggested that ultraweak photons transmit information in living systems [A.G. Gurwitsch, S. Grabje, S. Salkind, Die Natur des spezifischen Erregers der Zellteilung. Arch. Entw. Mech. 100 (1923) 11-40.; A.A. Gurwitsch, A historical review of the problem of mitogenic radiation. Experientia 44(1988)545-550.]
* 1937, A. Hollaender, W. Klaus refuted Gurwitsch's results. [A. Hollaender, W. Klaus, An experimental study of the problem of mitogenetic radiation. Bull. Nat. Res. Council 100(1937)3-96.] Here (http://kmc.snu.ac.kr/~jdkim/Biophoton.html).
Mitogenic Radiation is best taken in small amounts, along with a hefty does of Potassium Iodide. ;)

03-17-2004, 07:27 PM
Popp seems to want to prove the proposition that no matter how many degrees one has, one can be as kooky and unscientific as some posters on message boards.

"All living organisms emit certain electro-magnetic waves. If they are in a healthy condition, they emit more. If not, they emit less. This phenomena is common to all forms of cells."

I don't know about all living cells but I, personally, emit more electro-magnetic waves when I am unhealthy and have a fever. I'll most of you folks also emit more when you're sick.