Physics of the Impossible

Chapter 5, Part 2

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the spiritual energy I sensed at the Grand Canyon and throughout all nature is also a key line of inquiry in a scientific theory whose scope is quite simply “everything.”

Darwin by Laura Russell 1869

I invite you to ponder a promising new hypothesis, gaining momentum in the same way that Darwin's theory did in the time of Thoreau

Personally, the only proof I need of spiritual energy is to experience it, many times each day, washing over, washing around, washing through me. I am content to accept it on its own terms, as one of those exquisite mysteries that transform life from drudgery to ecstasy.

In this chapter, I invite you to treasure the mystery of spiritual energy, nature’s sacred current. I also invite you to ponder the mounting scientific evidence for a promising new hypothesis, gaining momentum in the same way that Darwinism did in the time of Thoreau. This new hypothesis could well explain spiritual energy as part of a brilliant, overarching, profound, and controversial theory on how the universe works at its most fundamental level. It’s an unorthodox theory that proposes an organizing force for everything in the cosmos, including consciousness itself. As such, the new scientific hypothesis echoes the concept of “generative energy” espoused by American Transcendentalism more than 165 years ago. 

To learn more about this hypothesis, I did exactly what Thoreau did in the mid-19th century to learn more about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. He read everything he could put his fingers on.

The catalyst for this new theory is no less a transcendent character than Albert Einstein. In 1913, Einstein and Otto Stern calculated the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system can have, an amount of light energy associated with the so-called “vacuum” of outer space, and named it the Zero Point Field. It is not my purpose here to give you an in-depth account of the Zero Point Field and all its implications. For that you can follow my links, explore my references, or simply Google “Zero Point Field.” My goal is simply to summarize what I’ve read in popular terms.

Here’s the back story. Einstein helped fuel theories about the Zero Point Field when he commented with an air of universal significance that “The Field is the only reality.” Other scientists, somewhat in awe of Einstein’s version of reality, have called his calculations on the Zero Point Field “the physics of the impossible.” So was atomic energy before the Manhattan Project. Accordingly, the Zero Point Field carries cosmic implications going far beyond the Pandora’s Box of atomic energy that Einstein helped unlock with his theoretical work throughout the early 20th century. The energy contained in this universal Zero Point Field dwarfs the mushroom cloud by putting atoms to work in an entirely different way.

Recent discoveries in the discipline of vacuum physics indicate that the Zero Point Field of outer space is actually a vast sea of light waves; an almost infinite ocean of energy, containing countless eddies, tides, and undercurrents formed from various kinds of light, running throughout the whole universe.

All light flows in sloshing electromagnetic waves – think about radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, or gamma rays – composed of tiny charged particles called photons. These electromagnetic waves create fields, or regions of influence, made from photon particles bobbing up and down like buoys in an ocean. What distinguishes all the various forms of light are their wavelengths, ranging from hundreds of miles long for some radio waves, to one-millionth of a nanometer short for gamma rays. Einstein and others proposed that outer space is a background sea full of these diverse electromagnetic light waves, countless fields of them, all occupying the quantum vacuum of outer space. It’s a field of fields.


The Field is the only reality

As contemporary astrophysicist Bernard Haisch explained in his enchanting book The God Theory: Universes, Zero-Point Fields, and What’s Behind It All: “Electric and magnetic fields flowing through space oscillate as a pendulum does…At every possible frequency, there will always be a tiny bit of electromagnetic jiggling going on. And if you add up all these ceaseless fluctuations, you get a background sea of light whose total energy is enormous. This is the electromagnetic Zero Point Field.”

In that regard, astrophysicists have called the Zero Point Field a “cosmic free lunch.” If successful in harnessing the limitless energy of space, scientists might be able to create anti-gravity WARP drives, not to mention automobiles that run on the sustainable “physics of the impossible.” Zero Point Energy might also open up the possibility that humans travel beyond their own solar system. NASA and British Aerospace have heavily funded work into Zero Point Field energy propulsion. Arthur C. Clarke, among others, has championed this work and suggested that aerospace companies should charge their most brilliant scientists with studying the Zero Point Field.

What these researchers would like to draw upon, according to journalist Lynne McTaggart in her 2001 book, The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, is “a vast inexhaustible energy source all sitting there unobtrusively in the background of the empty space around us, like one all-pervasive, supercharged backdrop. To give you some idea of the magnitude of that power, the energy in a single cubic yard of empty space is enough to boil all the oceans of the world.”

So goes the scientifically verifiable potential of the Zero Point Field. Now comes the speculative part.

Over the course of the century since Einstein proposed the Zero Point Field, conjecture about it has Darwinized into a new theory that involves a perfect storm of unconventional hypotheses, mathematics, research, and experiments. This theory about the Zero Point Field, if it can be validated, would be the most influential scientific hypothesis since Relativity in the 20th century and Evolution in the 19th.  The theory would not only connect everything in existence, but also bond physics with metaphysics, reality with surreality, psychology with parapsychology, life force with life source. The universe might finally be unified into a universal unity, instead of just expanding and drifting away ad infinitum at the mercy of the Big Bang.

The hypothesis springs, like Zero Point Energy itself, from many fields. Beyond those researchers working on zero-point-energy propulsion, an array of additional scientists from various disciplines is studying the Zero Point Field for other reasons. In addition, there is a meteor shower of writings about the Zero Point Field from many perspectives by many authors with wildly differing credentials. My problem was deciding which credentials possess enough credibility to lend some of it to this incredible theory. To do so, I needed to separate my logical, orderly, and skeptical left brain, the one I’m forced to use for earning my keep as a science writer, from my poetic, messy, and gullible right brain.

As that noted pop theoretician, Frank Sinatra, complained quite ungrammatically, “Who can I turn to?”

Ervin Laszlo is an admirable candidate, and the person I chose to lead me down the noble Zero Point path. He is well-qualified to translate the baffling lingo and physics of the Zero Point Field into the Queen’s English and explain the far-reaching, god-like, mind-boggling entity formerly known as “empty space.” Laszlo holds the highest degree of the Sorbonne, has been nominated for two Nobel Prizes, has written 75 books translated into 20 languages, and has served as a professor of philosophy, systems theory, and future studies in the U.S., Europe, and the Far East. Laszlo has also been described as “one of the best thinkers of our time” and a visionary who “links the best of modern science to the wisdom of the great spiritual thinkers.”

Ervin Laszlo

Ervin Laszlo: "dead space" is actually a "cosmic plenum"

In Laszlo’s mesmerizing book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything, he theorized how the quantum vacuum of space percolates with a subtle sea of fluctuating light energy fields, from which all things arise: atoms and galaxies, stars and planets, living beings, and even human consciousness.

This Zero Point Akashic Field, as Laszlo called it, is both poetically and scientifically named after the mythical Akasha of the Sanskrit and Indian cultures. According to him, Akasha – derived from the Sanskrit word for “Kash,” meaning radiating or shining – was considered “an all-encompassing medium that underlies all things and becomes all things. It is real, but so subtle that it cannot be perceived until it becomes the many things that populate the manifest world.”

As Indian Yogi Swami Vivekanada described it, “Akasha is the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form…is evolved out of this Akasha.” In both Hinduism and Buddhism, Akasha is the universal medium in which everything is contained.

To Laszlo, naming Einstein’s very real light-energy field after the mythic Akasha was not just a metaphor. “Scientists now realize that space is not empty,” Laszlo wrote, “and what is called the quantum vacuum is in fact a cosmic plenum [fullness]. It is a fundamental medium that recalls the ancient concept of Akasha.”

One person energetically attempting to integrate all the scientific and quasi-scientific research on Zero Point Energy is McTaggart, who has made it something of a cause célèbre.

As Publisher’s Weekly commented about her book, The Field: “McTaggart…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, form a ‘cobweb of energy exchange’ that links everything in the universe; controls everything from cellular communication to the workings of the mind; and could be harnessed for unlimited propulsion fuel, levitation, ESP, spiritual healing, and more.”

Whoa! That’s a mouthful of both astro- and meta-physics. But it certainly echoes Laszlo. What McTaggart found was no less than astounding – perhaps too astounding for me, from my small-minded viewpoint, to embrace in its entirety. A design for all reality.

In my next section of Back to Walden, I will tell you how this extraordinary design employs the same spiritual energy that powers the Transcendentalism of Thoreau and Emerson.