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Re: RE: starship-design: Casimir-Foreward balloon

Connor writes:
 > On another unrelated propulsion topic, a physicist friend of mine was
 > telling me about virtual particles (a particle and an anti particle
 > are constantly popping into existence and annihilating eachother, so
 > to conserve matter another two pop in, and so on. At any given time
 > there are virtual particles all around, appearing and dissapearing.
 > I was wondering how theoretical this is, if you guys buy it (or have
 > heard of it), and how it could be applied to propulsion. I think the
 > startrek ships fly with matter-antimatter reactions. Could they just
 > bussard the matter/antimatter out of space and let them go off in a
 > combustion chamber?

Virtual particles are pretty well accepted in quantum mechanics, but
their fundamental property is that their energy is borrowed from the
vacuum and has to be given back.  A virtual particle either has to
disappear shortly after its formation or something else has to give up
energy for the virtual particle to remain in existence.

A lot of the talk about "zero point energy" is essentially the idea of
somehow permanently extracting energy from the vacuum; in theory for
various kinds of quantum effects to happen, there has to be a pretty
deep pool of energy in the vacuum for them to temporarily borrow from.
Whether it's really possible to permanently take energy from the vacuum
is still a big question, though.