Critique on the Physics in Setterfield's
Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy

At the top of GSR - Barry Setterfield's website - there is a hopeful phrase.

the goal:
Letting Data Lead to Theory

Indeed, on the positive side, Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy may be regarded as a monumental collection of data and facts. It is my personal opinion that Chapter 3, The Speed of Light Measurements, is the most impressive, interesting and original part of the book - not everybody agrees with me on that part. However, when reading Setterfield's book from a theoretical point of view, another phrase comes into mind: Letting Data Lead to Fantasy. Now read my lips: there is nothing wrong with fantasy! But this monograph aims to be a scientific book. And yes, even in science, imagination - or let's say fantasy - plays an important role. But imagination in science is distinguished from fantasy in (science) fiction by the fact that it is subject to severe restrictions. In many cases, these restrictions are imposed by mathematics. Science is tamed fantasy, it imposes limits upon imagination, it is begging for discipline. Like in an army, or when playing a game: you cannot just do what you like. Wishful thinking may be the initial motivation, but it is not going to help you in the end. I have demonstrated elsewhere that, as far as just the mathematics is concerned, Setterfield's discipline is very much lacking. I will show now that the same is the case with his discipline in Physics. As a theoretical physicist by education, I'm a bit biased, of course. In private communication, Barry has said that I'm taking a minimalist position, which simply means that I'm not giving up common physics for the sake of some self-proclaimed "new physics" (Nieuwe natuurkunde). Which then is assumed to be in better agreement with the Bible, eventually. Wishful thinking! However, physics without any decent mathematics is Natural Philosophy at best; it should not be regarded as being scientific. And the extensive quote mining doesn't enhance credibility, at all. So, from my humble minimalist position as a theoretical physicist by education, I find that Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy safely can be replaced by just the Introduction: A Layman's Extended Summary / A Basic Summary. Without missing too much. Nothing in the book is beyond that level anyway. And Setterfield's apparent lack of esteem for the hypothetical "layman" may be regarded as a manifestation of narcism and agnorance.


Setterfield's text in italic, objections by me (HdB) in bold.

In 1911, Max Planck's equations indicated the presence of a real energy intrinsic to the vacuum of space. Objection! It has become known as the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) because it is present even if the vacuum is cooled to absolute zero, or about $-273^o$ C. Sorry? The ZPE consists of electromagnetic waves of all wavelengths, and was discovered to control the properties of the vacuum, including its electric permittivity and magnetic permeability. Wait! It was proven to exist by Mulliken in 1925, but by then the foundations of Quantum Electro-Dynamics (or QED physics) were being laid. Quantum physics Wait! considered the ZPE to be a mere mathematical abstraction with no real physical existence, despite the evidence. Wait! In 1962, Louis de Broglie, one of the physicists who had initially supported the OED approach, re-examined the situation. He suggested that science may have taken a wrong turn in siding with the QED approach. Wait! Since then, an approach that recognized a real, physical ZPE combined with classical physics has been developed. This approach is now called Stochastic Electro-Dynamics or SED physics. SED physics shows the ZPE to be the physical reason behind quantum effects on atoms. Objection!

This study examines the origin of the ZPE in accord with unknown physical principles. Data and Barry's theory both do not suggest its strength should increase over the lifetime of the cosmos. The effects of a varying ZPE on atoms and atomic constants, such as Planck's constant, $h$ , the speed of light, $c$ , and the rest-masses of atomic particles, $m$ , is " explored " (: mind the scare quotes). The rate of ticking of atomic clocks, including radiometric clocks and their decay rates, can also - not really - be shown to be affected by the Zero Point Energy, whereas orbital clocks (gravity-based) are not affected as well.

Some SED physicists have demonstrated claimed that the ZPE maintains the atomic orbits of electrons throughout the cosmos. Whatever. An increasing ZPE strength particle mass means all atomic orbits will become more energetic, resulting in all light emitted from atoms also becoming more energetic, or bluer, with time. This gives a clear explanation for the increasing red shifts which are seen in progressively more distant galaxies (the farther out we look, the further back in time we are seeing).

Changes in the Zero Point Energy through time also mean alteration of the electric and magnetic properties of the vacuum. Again? This has implications for both plasma physics and astronomy. It is not shown that plasma interactions were more rapid when the ZPE strength was lower. In almost all cosmological models, the universe is considered to have begun as plasma (?). Standard astronomy says gravity began to act once neutral atoms appeared, and then vast amounts of time are needed to form galaxies and stars and planets. However, even today. our telescopes show that plasma comprises $99\%$ of the universe. Therefore, using plasma physics, the rates of galaxy, star and planet formation can be shown to have been much more rapid in the early cosmos. This may resolve some astronomical anomalies found at the frontiers of the universe. In short: Barry Setterfield has joined the Electric Cosmos.

An increasing ZPE also has implications for planetary geology, as well as giving a reason for gigantism in Earth's fossil record. In all fauna, bio-electro-magnetism governs the rate of transmission of nerve impulses, which are effectively electric currents. When the ZPE was low, all electric currents, and hence nerve impulses, flowed more rapidly. This allowed larger faunal types, such as dinosaurs, to be very efficient creatures. As the ZPE increased, this efficiency was lost and only smaller varieties survived. Because of the Zero Point Energy's effect upon light itself, photosynthesis was also much more efficient, allowing the gigantism we see in plant fossils. Objection!

Finally, many of relativity's predictions do not follow logically from the presence of a real ZPE. The concepts are intuitive and can be formulated with <NL>simple minded mathematics</NL>. This approach has the advantage that the restrictive postulates of relativity are not needed to achieve the same results. Nonsense! The real, physical ZPE is thus not seen to be the common factor that unites a number of branches of science. There is NO such thing as a Theory of Everything.


There is another entry on Barry's website: Setterfield Simplified. That part can be safely skipped as well, unless someone can tell me how to simplify a theory that is not even wrong. Setterfield's theory is a hodgepodge of barely understood concepts, bearing some resemblance to real (mathematical) physics, but just missing the point almost everywhere. So let's debunk the main part of it: the existence of a varying Zero Point Energy, which is crucial for "Cosmology and the ZPE".
The Casimir effect is commonly adopted as empirical evidence for the Zero Point Energy. The Casimir force is the derivative of the Casimir energy, which is (apart from infinities) Barry's ZPE, called $U$ in the book. Wikipedia says that it is equal to: $$ U = \frac {(h\,c)\,\pi} {3\times480\,d^3} $$ But on page 54 of "Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy" it is stated that: $$ h\,c = {\bf invariant} \quad so \; that \quad h \sim 1/c \qquad (4) $$ Herewith it is easily proved that the ZPE cannot change, at all: $$ \Large U = {\bf invariant} $$ That wasn't difficult, huh? Maybe that's why the formula for the Casimir energy is not mentioned explicitly in Barry's book.

Upside down

Simplification complete. Period? No! On the positive side, all of the above doesn't mean that there aren't any ideas in Setterfield's work that are potentially sound. Let's name only a few: Setterfield's theory could have been important and inspiring, but any of it's significance is completely destroyed by poor theoretical underpinning; especially the mathematics is dreadful. It's like someone having a great idea about building his dream house. Though unexperienced, he wants to do it all by himself, instead of hiring an expert in building: an architect. As a consequence, the house will be lacking a solid foundation. And it collapses. That doesn't have to be the end of a great dream. It only means that one has to clean up the trash and make a fresh start.
In my personal experience, a common error in theory building is: messing up cause and effect. Barry's "Letting Data Lead to Theory" does not prevent such a messing up, because Data are always insensitive to whatever plays the role of a cause or an effect in Theory. It is therefore possible to construct a "Setterfield upside down" Theory which is able to reproduce (part of) the same Data, but nevertheless works the other way around. Firm disclaimer: this little theory of mine is meant for demonstration purposes only and no truth value should be derived from it, at least not for the time being.