Quantum Vacuum State

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Quantum Vacuum State


The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle allows for the rapid creation and annihilation of particles even in a vacuum, which is by definition the state of lowest possible energy. Careful experimentation has confirmed that this picture of the vacuum as a sea of virtual particles is accurate. For example, it explains the so-called Casimir force between two metal or dialectric plates and the so-called Van de Waal's force in chemistry. This conception of the vacuum is significant for philosophical and religious cosmologies in at least three ways. First, the concept of the quantum vacuum suggests a picture of a primeval chaos of virtual particles being tamed and ordered by conservation lawsthe opposite of the classical picture in which a quiescent, perfectly well-ordered state lies beneath the chaos of matter and energy, with implications for the idea of creation in western religious traditions. Second, Daoist interpretations of reality as emergent from an inexpressible state of highly structured dynamism seem resonant with the idea of the quantum vacuum. Third, Buddhist ideas of dependent coarising from emptiness seem amenable to interpretation in terms of the quantum vacuum state. Each of these possibilities, and others besides, needs thorough study.

See also Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle

niu shi-wei