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Sci-fi writer needs help with unusual problem

  1. May 31, 2008 #1
    (moderators, I hope this is posted in the correct forum; I'm just not sure where to place this exactly)


    I write science fiction and I'm currently searching for some answers.

    I've done my best to find these answers, researching and reading published articles by known physicists, asking four physicists at allexperts.com, and even contacting via email a few other physicists; but researching/reading seems only to lead me into loops, only one physicist at allexperts could answer my question (and just vaguely), and the other physicists contacted by email have yet to respond. Ok, I'm getting desperate.

    I want to know what could control the size of matter, universally, i.e. obviously at the atomic and molecular level and most likely an unusual quantum effect, since if matter is increased in size (what I'm mostly aiming for), electron orbit radii would need to increase likewise (as well as energy and mass levels too?). A "god-like" character will be administering this strange occurrence.

    What I have pieced together so far is this (and please feel free to critically analyze; I want to get close to scientifically/theoretically possible):

    If zero point energy is increased, this will diminish the speed of light (a type of VSL, varying speed of light idea). This is due, from what I've read, to the photon's interaction, in transit, with virtual positron/electron particle pairs; the more virtual particle pairs present, the more the photon interacts and thus this diminishes the photon's travel speed. Also, as a side note, due to experimentation by Putthoff, ZPE could be key to the electron energy orbital quantization; it's not really about a quantized energy orbit just right for the electron in each atom, but it's about ZPE supplying the precise energy amount so the electron doesn't plummet into the nucleus.
    But anyway, if c, a dimensional constant, is diminished, and yet all other dimensionless parameters (constants) remain the same, then, for example since the fine structure constant = e^2/(h-bar*c*4pi*vacuum permittivity), then other dimensional constants in this equation will need to adjust in value to compensate. I am especially curious about the veracity of this, since I obtained this information in an article at wikipedia.org, titled “Planck units”. In this article, with reference to Duff(2004) and section lll.5(by Duff alone) of Duff, Okun, and Veneziano(2002), I thought I found my answer. Below is a quoted portion of the article (the "a = " equation was modified by me so as to be compatible with forum fonts):

    "If the speed of light c, were somehow suddenly cut in half and changed to c⁄2, (but with all dimensionless physical quantities continuing to remain constant), then the Planck length would increase by a factor of √(8) from the point-of-view of some unaffected "god-like" observer on the outside. But then the size of atoms (approximately the Bohr radius) are related to the Planck length by an unchanging dimensionless constant:

    a = 4pi*vacuum permittivity*h-bar^2/electron m*e^2 = planck mass*planck length/electron m*fine structure constant

    Atoms would then be bigger (in one dimension) by √(8), each of us would be taller by √(8), and so would our meter sticks be taller (and wider and thicker) by a factor of √(8) and we would not know the difference. Our perception of distance and lengths relative to the Planck length is logically an unchanging dimensionless constant.

    Moreover, our clocks would tick slower by a factor of √(32) (from the point-of-view of this unaffected "god-like" observer) because the Planck time has increased by √(32) but we would not know the difference. (Our perception of durations of time relative to the Planck time is, axiomatically, an unchanging dimensionless constant.) This hypothetical god-like outside observer might observe that light now travels at half the speed that it used to (as well as all other observed velocities) but it would still travel 299792458 of our new meters in the time elapsed by one of our new seconds (c⁄2 √(32)⁄√(8) continues to equal 299792458 m/s). We would not notice any difference."

    But again, I am not sure what is stated above in the wikipedia article is theoretically possible or not. So I'm not sure it's the answer I'm searching for.

    And also the "god-like" character in my story will be controlling the amount of ZPE, so as to create the result above, of diminishing c, and hence an increase in matter size.

    Yes, I know this is just science fiction, but I like to get it as close to the truth as possible since it just seems more believable, allowing the reader more readily to "fall into" the fictional world I'm trying to create.

    Any help would be great. Also, if you can site reference articles that I could read to help me better understand your information, that would be great too. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2008 #2
    I just sort of skimmed over it and I don't really know all that much on the subject. I'm not sure about this, wouldn't mass and energy remain constant? Unless you need an added force to keep the electon in orbit propotionally. So I don't really know. Just to clarify though, Plank's unit is just the smallest possible unit for a given measurement z(i.e. speed= smallest distance/smallest unit of time).
  4. May 31, 2008 #3
    I believe from what I have read that an increase in ZPE would create further blockage of the electron's true electric charge quantity (and likewise the proton's true electric charge quantity) so I'm thinking this could disrupt energy/mass levels...but, not sure...
  5. May 31, 2008 #4


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    That would, I suspect, just about violate every fundamental physical law we know about, so that your character isn't just god-"like", but just god.
  6. May 31, 2008 #5
    dydx !! It is you as SF-writer who decides what is possible and how it works in your book.
    You cannot expect scientists answer your questions easily - if so they had better invest
    in a Nobel Prize about these things. Furthermore I don't think SF-readers want to dwell too deeply into these farfetched complicated things. A more simple direct theory is more appealing. Long ago I began writing an SF-book myself, but was bored already by reading it myself... :redface:
  7. Jun 1, 2008 #6
    M Grandin, thank you!
    Yes, I know what you mean, but keeping things as close to real as possible really helps. I wrote one novel already, published online, and it's received great reviews by my readers, with some readers reading the entire story several times and practically begging me to write a sequel...I've even had a few readers wonder if I've had actual alien contact experience (I have not, never) because my information/science is so realistic (at least that's my assumption).
    But, yeah, does weigh you down when you try to be so close to the actual truth. I don't use all the information I've researched in my story, just some, but it helps to know the facts surrounding details to help write the main idea.
    But I appreciate your advice...maybe it is just time to use what info I have and get on with it...
    But anyone else, if you have further help, please let me know...
    Alex48674 and arildno thank you too, I'll keep your advice in mind.
  8. Jun 1, 2008 #7
    Your ideas sound intriguing for scifi. Go with M Grandin, WRT your novel, you are god and can do anyting you want, and can grant any powers you want to your characters.

    Note that I an a layman when it comes to physics, but love scifi. What you are searching for is to get close enough to fact to allow "suspension of disbelief." Once you find that point, it is easier for the reader to drop right into the story and become not just a reader, but a direct witness, or to some extent, a participant.

    To the subject:

    What does keep electrons and protons from combining? I don't know, but if you can get some kind of an answer, it may help. When your characters discuss the theory, albiet in a slightly altered form, they can construct a device to alter physical charactistics within a confined place. Maybe they create a condition where electons and protons spontaneously fuse and tranlate into pure energy. You can go many places with that. Or maybe create someting unexpected.

    Maybe dimensions start changing within the chamber. From inside the chamber, the effect is not detectable. From outside it is. But things start leaking out, or maybe leaking in, or maybe getting sucked in. Once something is started, you cannot undo it. If I move box a from location B to C, moving it back does not change the fact that the box was at C for some period of time. Time never goes backwards.

    There are some current concerns about CERN. Yes, google CERN. Some clain that with the huge energy levels it will be using, it might create a small black hole. Read about CERN and some of the experiments they plan to do.

    I have read a report that someone has stopped a photon, held it for some period of time, then let it go, apparently unchanged. I don't know how, but it might be worth looking into.

    Can you tell us where to find your story?
  9. Jun 2, 2008 #8
    Thanks for appreciating my comments on your SF-ambitions. Congrats to your success in
    writing an SF-story - obviously you have found a paying SF-style! :approve:
  10. Jun 2, 2008 #9
    bkelly, thank you for your info, I'll consider it, and you can check out my online story at geocities dot com tpfpar3 (put a slash after com before tpfpar3, I can't post links here yet because I am too new)
    I have been working on writing a sequel to this, but then became frustrated because I've been in college for the past 2 years and just couldn't find the time anymore. So I decided to write another shorter novel, hopefully to complete this summer, and maybe work on the sequel some this summer too. Unfortunately I think one of my biggest drawbacks in writing, slowing me down, is getting too involved in the research, since I like physics and science so much...too much.
    And M Grandin, thank you for saying I found a paying SF-style, but unfortunately I am not making money with it yet. I published my novel online because it was too long to be published by standard publishers. I'm glad I did though, since readers have responded so positively and it has given me a following, even before I attempt to be a paid author :-)
  11. Jun 2, 2008 #10
    Just to sum up what I'm mostly looking for, if anyone else would like to respond:

    1. Would reducing c to c/2 cause an enlargement of matter from the point of view of a god-like observer (as is stated in the wikipedia article in my first post)?

    2. Can an increase in zero point energy control the speed of c, effectively reducing c?

    3. Also, if c is continued to be reduced in magnitude, from c/2 on downward to near 0 amount, would this eventually cause the "destruction" of our universe (from a god-like observer view point)?

    4. And if reducing c would product this effect, what physical entity would be the first to feel this effect, i.e. would atomic structure disintegrating be first? Or black hole disintegration? Or some other physical condition?

    Thank you.
  12. Jun 2, 2008 #11
    I think M Grandin posed the best advice for you. I read your first post thoroughly and I'm unable to make the leaps of faith that you have implemented in your theory (or whomever's theory). If the average person like myself cannot fathom the technical explanation for why you're God-like character's powers work, then it defeats the purpose of having a technical explanation. It mine as well be as far out as Nietsche.
  13. Jun 2, 2008 #12
    Dumbledore, yes, true. I'm writing it now, with what I have, but still trying a few things. And I do have god-like characters in my story administering the effect, because only those with such ability could carry this out.

    I'm still wondering about c -> 0, and the bad effects.
    I went to the Cern Courier online and read "The case for mini black holes". The Schwarzschild radius had me wonder. I found the formula for the Schwarzschild radius at wikipedia, r = (2Gm)/c^2
    I used my Maple mathematics software to gradually diminish c to near zero (lim c->0) and found that the Schwarzschild radius seems to head toward a very large number (infinity?) as c approaches 0, so therefore this would disrupt gravitation processes, I assume. So that's one bad thing that can happen.
    I'm sure there are many more, though...

    And also please don't think my story is sinister, it is actually pro-God with a positive, hopeful message (my other novel had this general theme too which may be one reason it has been so well-liked...my writing reflects how I believe too).
  14. Jun 2, 2008 #13
    I can't say that I'm the most qualified to answer your question, but with regards to lim c -> 0, you seem on the money and r would in fact increase to infinity. That seems interesting in it's own right... Hmmm.

    If you also take a look at the famous e=mc^2, as c approaches zero, the energy also approaches zero no matter the amount of mass.

    I'm not sure if increasing ZPE would increase the "size" of matter, but I'm pretty sure that if it did, it wouldn't be because it has slowed the speed of light. From your first post, it looks like the speed of light is being slowed not by reducing it's speed, but by increasing it's interaction with the environment. Those interactions shouldn't cause any real problems, and in fact experiments have already been done that use interactions to "slow" light down and even stop it. Wikipedia slow light and speed of light for more on that.

    OK, I'm reading up on GR to see if I can infer other things that would occur if you take lim c-> 0, so I'll get back to you at some point if I find anything interesting.

    Wow... I just spent a half hour trying to write a couple of formulas here, and I can't spend anymore time on it now.
  15. Jun 3, 2008 #14
    Quisquis, thank you, it's good to know my figuring seems correct. When I did the calculations, I kept m=100 in each case of decreasing c for the Schwarzschild radius equation, just an arbitrary number for m so I could see what would happen for the same amount of mass in each case.

    But about your quoted paragraph above: I came across similar information as you mentioned, that decreasing c shouldn't decrease the size of matter. But then, if you look at the wikipedia article, it implies that c/2 would increase matter size, so I'm confused.

    Do you have any idea as to what should be decreased/increased, as far as a physical constants, so that matter will increase in size? Or should I instead be looking at altering the dimensionless constants, such the fine structure constant or the electromagnetic coupling constant, or the masses of leptons/quarks, or energy of gauge bosons/bosons? Thank you, but don't devote too much time to this, just what you can.
  16. Jun 4, 2008 #15
    Just some thoughts...

    A ZPE manipulation is very localised and would have no universal consequence under current understanding.

    A ZPE manipulated environment cannot sustain itself without continued massive energy requirements.

    A ZPE manipulated environment will tend to "cease to exist" as it will seek "normalization" with the regular ZPE by default of universal external influence.

    But there is much to be learned about this, so, who know's !
  17. Jun 5, 2008 #16
    Thank you, pallidin, I'll keep this in mind.
    Do you know of any other physical component, something isotropic/homogeneous/pervasive i.e. everywhere in our universe that could achieve the result I need? Something similar to ZPE?
  18. Jun 5, 2008 #17
    I wish I better understood ZPE myself, because I find it both fascinating and a potential area of significant discoveries and advances. So sadly I do not have any answers.
  19. Jun 5, 2008 #18
    That's okay, no problem.
    There is a good site to read about ZPE research, by well-known astrophysicist Bernard Haisch. Since I can't type urls yet, do a google search on California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics, and you'll find his site. His articles are quite interesting. I emailed him, but no word back yet. He believes there is no inertial mass, only energy interacting with the ZPE.
  20. Jun 5, 2008 #19


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    You could change the value of the Higgs field. In that case, all particles would "scale up" in mass, and that would then reduce the sizes of the atoms (if electrons are heavier, their orbitals are smaller). The mass of all particles is (in the standard model) given by something which is a coupling constant for the particle times the value of the Higgs field "at rest". Keeping all the coupling constants the same, you can increase the mass of the particles by increasing the rest value of the Higgs field.

    You can make it sound even more scientifically correct, by linking it to the LHC, which just started up this year, and which is going to look for that famous Higgs particle.

    Ride a Higgs wave of scientific popularity :tongue2:
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2008
  21. Jun 6, 2008 #20
    vanesch, excellent, I really like your idea.

    And yes, I'm aware of the Large Hadron Collider...it would just be a dream job for me if I could work there. I am totally amazed and interested in high energy physics...unlocking the doors to the deepest mysteries of the universe...so cool...
    And I sure hope they can finally discover the Higgs boson.

    But is everything up and running there? Times I've visited their url, they still seem to be trouble-shooting, fixing, or something...do you know? wiki has an article, but I'm never sure about their articles.
  22. Jun 6, 2008 #21
    I believe that slowing C will be the start of producing matter. In Einsteins theory, e=mc^2, m = e/c^2. Therefor, light being a form of energy would start to convert to matter. The amount of matter would be determined by the amount of energy. This process should produce dark energy, the same way energy is produced in the reverse.
  23. Jun 7, 2008 #22


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    I have to wonder at what the purpose of proposing actions and effects that only an observer external to the universe could notice, while the inhabitants of the universe could not. :confused:
    That in itself seems interesting.

    I vaguely recall an idea that the level of the ZPE might have a relation to the weak force.
    Perhaps wild speculation, but if there is anything to it then we would definitely notice (at least up to the point where we didn't notice anything at all).

    That aside this seems to discuss at least some aspects of the idea in question.
  24. Jun 7, 2008 #23
    Interesting speculation...

    Have you read the Sci. Am. special edition's (vol. 16, no.1 2006 -- "A Matter of Time") article: "Inconstant Constants" by Barrow and Webb ?

    Among other things, they describe how slightly tweaking the fine structure constant would vastly change "the" universe which begs the question: do constants remain constant ?
  25. Jun 7, 2008 #24
    Quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_speed_of_light#Varying_c_in_time:
    "...At first we might be tempted to think that a world in which the speed of light was slower would be a different world. But this would be a mistake. If c, h, and e were all changed so that the values they have in metric (or any other) units were different when we looked them up in our tables of physical constants, but the value of α remained the same, this new world would be observationally indistinguishable from our world. The only thing that counts in the definition of worlds are the values of the dimensionless constants of Nature. If all masses were doubled in value [including the Planck mass ] you cannot tell because all the pure numbers defined by the ratios of any pair of masses are unchanged."

    See these articles:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6092" [Broken]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_anthropic_principle" [Broken]

    When you say god-like observer point, do you mean an absolute frame of reference?, because that doesn't exist. If you were able to create a http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/mg19125591.500-create-your-own-universe.html", then you might be able to determine c in that universe. I'm not sure what would happen if you were to put an entity from our universe into that universe, or even if that's possible. Though, I guess if you're god you can do whatever you want.

    ZPE is the energy of the ground state of a vacuum. You can't extract energy from ZPE, and I'm not sure if you can 'increase' it either. I'm also not sure if adding energy will increase the refractive index of the vacuum, if that's what you mean.
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  26. Jun 8, 2008 #25
    Wow, thank you for all the responses.

    Tompuckett, very good point, I will definitely include this.

    NoTime, probably some more details are needed. By the entity (and I don't want to describe this entity or other details too much, because readers can be good at tracking down spoilers online) which controls this universe, 7 people are "encased" in a seamless, clear, impenetrable bubble, sort of like a transparent spacesuit, with full life support, that contains within all the regular physical properties of this universe. These 7 are then "transferred" to a "copy" of our universe, where, at first, all appears the same (so the 7 cannot notice any difference whatsoever and are not aware they've been "transferred"). It is this "copy" universe that will then undergo the increase in matter size, and so these 7 will be the witnesses to this bizarre event. BUT, police, doctors, and eventually special government scientists/physicists (in the "copy" universe) will be struggling greatly to help the 7 who they see as SHRINKING in size while stuck in this strange, clear, impenetrable encasement...so all are clueless until an off-beat, radical physicist (in the "copy" universe) figures it all out (but what happens next, you have to read the story) :smile:

    NoTime, I will check out the link too. I read Bernard Haisch's online info on the ZPE, and there is mention of a weak force ZPE.

    Redhat, yes I have read most of this article. It was very interesting.

    GRB 080319B, please read my story's outline above to get a better understanding of what I'm attempting to do. Even though, as you can tell, this story definitely has an overall theme in the fantasy category, I still attempt to use as much science fact as I can. Sci-fi/fantasy I think would describe it better.
    But, I will read the wikipedia articles, I haven't read all of them yet. And thank you for your other information too.

    Thank you again, I truly appreciate this help!
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