Quantum quark and brown sauce
I had already announced that I would be taking a closer look at Professor Claus Turtur’s quark. Turtur claims that energy can be generated from nothing – and that this can be justified with quantum field theory.
In the meantime, however, another actor from the same article has made a name for himself: even though he is not mentioned by name in the original sources, everything points to the fact that it is Ernst Köwing, the Honey Man, who will soon be serving a prison sentence for sedition. After the first conviction in 2013, the court had apparently seen enough this time not to suspend the sentence again. In this blog, Köwing had attracted attention with the conspiracy plot that CERN is controlled by the Vatican and should open a portal to allow an alien invasion.
Another head of the brown-esoteric scene, which I already had to deal with here, did not have such a good week in court either. Peter I., supreme sovereign of the Kingdom of Germany, is probably considered fully culpable for his missing 1.3 (or more) million investor money. The expert considers him narcissistically disturbed, but the self-crowned monarch lacks not insight, but only insight. A longer stay behind bars could possibly lead him to such insight.
But it seems to me that the German justice system in particular is gradually coming to an understanding in dealing with such people…
Finally, a reading recommendation before we begin: Yesterday, Jakob Herpich, on Krautreporter, critically examined “Human Energy Fields” and attempts at justification with reference to the German post-war physicist Burkhard Heim. You can hear more about Burkhard Heim from me at SkepKon, at Urania Berlin from 29 April to 1 May. My lecture is on April 30th in the afternoon, in a session with Martin Lambeck, who is also talking about a quantum quark topic there.
But let’s come to Mr. Turtur. This is not the literary figure with a very similar name, which also has the characteristic of becoming less and less important the closer you look. Rather, Claus Wilhelm Turtur is Professor of Experimental Physics and Materials Engineering, employed in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at Ostfalia University in the science metropolis of Wolfenbüttel. Even though Turtur’s topics are ostensibly apolitical, it is interesting to see what kind of world he is involved in: As already mentioned in the previous article, he appeared at the same anti-censorship conference in Switzerland where Sylvia Stolz also committed her latest sedition. In addition, Turtur publishes at Kopp-Verlag, whose prominently placed books have caused a lot of trouble for the Hugendubel bookstore chain, especially in the last few days. Turtur also appeared at the first major Kopp congress in 2016 and quite unabashedly links the right-wing esoteric publishing house from his university’s homepage.
You don’t necessarily expect a professor of engineering sciences to have a special political sensitivity, but if you have written a book with the title “Prüfungstrainer Physik”, I expect at least a certain basic understanding of … well, of physics. So it’s very surprising that Professor Turtur publicly claims that you can’t generate energy from anything. Most people nowadays realize that such a thing (a perpetuum mobile) does not work, and in his exam trainer, Turtur does not question the conservation of energy, but argues with it himself again and again. So he has to be creative to justify where his alleged energy comes from – he has to give a name to the Nothing.
Occasionally Turtur speaks of a “space energy” that can be used. This is a fantasy term that I have never heard of in serious physics. At the same time, however, he also speaks of the vacuum energy or the zero point energy of the vacuum, which he wants to use by means of the so-called Casimir effect. These terms actually exist in physics, and they even have something to do with each other. So it is worth taking a closer look at what is actually behind these terms. For those who want to know exactly, we recommend this more detailed article by the highly esteemed Martin Bäker (“Dragons live here” on science blogs). I will leave it here much shorter and easier.
I have already explained what zero point energy is in itself: This is the energy a quantum mechanical system must still have because of the uncertainty relation, after all the energy that can be taken from it has been extracted. Since it cannot be extracted, it cannot be used, which should make it clear that it is not a good excuse for Turtur.
With quantum field theory it then became clear that vacuum also has a zero point energy, and this is called, not surprisingly, vacuum energy. From a purely mathematical point of view, the vacuum energy is even arbitrarily large. However, because you can neither add nor take anything away from it, its absolute size is ultimately of little importance for measurable values. This does not mean, however, that vacuum energy has no effects. It manifests itself in so-called vacuum fluctuations: In a vacuum (and thus everywhere else) virtual particles and antiparticles constantly arise and die from vacuum energy. These in turn interact with the particles whose collisions we can measure in experiments, and if we want to predict the results of these collisions very accurately, we have to take the vacuum fluctuations into account as corrections.
Many physicists, including the sceptic icon Lawrence Krauss, consider it plausible that even the entire universe is nothing more than a huge and fortunately rather long-lived vacuum fluctuation:
There is another experimental effect that has been predicted based on vacuum energy. The virtual particles and antiparticles are also transformed into electromagnetic waves that have a wavelength. If you now bring two plates very close together in a vacuum, the vacuum fluctuations between these plates can only produce such waves whose wavelength is short enough to fit between the plates. Outside the plates all wavelengths are possible. So there are more vacuum fluctuations there than between them, which means that the plates are pressed together minimally. This effect was predicted by Hendrik Casimir in 1948 and is therefore known as the Casimir Effect.
Professor Turtur now claims in his lectures that Casimir was laughed at that time and that the effect was not experimentally proven until 1997.
This is complete nonsense. Hendrik Casimir has been showered with honours for this and many other findings to which he has contributed, and the first experimental confirmations are already described in a publication from 1954. As can be read in Martin Bäker’s already mentioned article, there are now also theoretical explanations of the Casimir Effect that do not use vacuum energy – so it is no longer quite clear whether the two effects really belong together.
But is it now possible to produce energy with the Casimir Effect? After all, there is a force that presses the plates together. If you give in to this force and move the plates even closer together, energy is naturally released, just as an old, mechanical wall clock gets energy from the fact that its weight decreases over time. If the clock is to run for a longer period of time, the weights must of course be lifted again. To do this, you need exactly the energy that the weights released when they were lowered, and this is what happens to the plates in the Casimir effect. To move them apart again, you need as much energy as was released when they were brought together, and in the end you gain – nothing.
Now Professor Turtur comes up with a trick that he thinks is ingenious: He wants to replace one of the plates with a kind of rotor made of slanting plates and thinks that the gravitational forces should make it rotate. But that’s just like trying to make a wind turbine with iron wings rotate by holding a magnet in front of the wheel: Nothing moves. The wind wheel only moves when something flows past it (or when you move the magnet, for example, which again requires energy). With the Casimir effect, however, nothing flows – this is a purely static effect between the plates.
With the difference between static and dynamic effects, the professor seems to have his problems anyway. On his institute page he has an article in which he presents the whole theory of his energy production from vacuum energy. As a basis he calculates the energy of moving electric charges and the resulting variable electric fields according to electrostatics, i.e. the theory of immovable charges and unchangeable fields. He finds a difference between expected and calculated energy – no wonder if the wrong theory is used. For Turtur, however, this is proof of the vacuum energy he is looking for. He then goes on to do almost identical nonsense with the theory of relativity: He calculates how an unchanging electric field propagates in space at the speed of light. But an unchangeable field does not propagate – it is there all the time, because it is unchangeable. Only a change in the field could propagate – but electrostatics is the wrong approach.
Could be noticed, if you are a professor of electrical engineering…
Of course, Professor Turtur also claims to have found experimental evidence for his energy production. A rotor of a few grams mass floating on oil is said to have rotated around its own axis approximately once in one hour under the influence of a high voltage of almost 30,000 volts. However, Turthur’s experimental arrangements made of materials such as matches, aluminium foil and children’s construction kits act like devices to maximise measurement errors, so that absolutely nothing can be deduced from the small differences of large numbers that ultimately result.
This is also the result of two tinkerers from Austria, who are actually rather fond of Turtur, trying to reproduce his results.
This should be the point where Turtur’s fantasies should be finally put to rest. And indeed he writes on his website that this is exactly what he would have done, at least for the time being:
Unfortunately, this does not stop him from presenting himself as a victim in his online presentation, claiming that physics is afraid of space energy and that his miracle technology is being suppressed on behalf of the energy industry.