Vacuum catastrophe

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List of unsolved problems in physics
Why doesn't the zero-point energy of vacuum cause a large cosmological constant? What cancels it out?

In cosmology the vacuum catastrophe refers to the disagreement of 107 orders of magnitude between the upper bound upon the vacuum energy density as inferred from data obtained from the Voyager spacecraft of less than 1014 GeV/m3 and the zero-point energy of 10121 GeV/m3 suggested by an application of quantum field theory.[1] This discrepancy has been termed "the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics."[2]

This problem was identified at an early stage by Walther Nernst,[3] who raised the question of the consequences of such a huge energy of vacuum on gravitational effects.[4] A recent philosophical and historical assessment is provided by Rugh and Zinkernagel.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SM Dutra (2005). Cavity Quantum Electronics. John Wiley & Sons. p. 63. ISBN 0-471-71347-3. 
  2. ^ MP Hobson, GP Efstathiou & AN Lasenby (2006). General Relativity: An introduction for physicists (Reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-521-82951-9. 
  3. ^ W Nernst (1916). "Über einen Versuch von quantentheoretischen Betrachtungen zur Annahme stetiger Energieänderungen zurückzukehren". Verhandl. der Deutschen Phys. Gesellschaften 18: 83.  (German)
  4. ^ TM Nieuwenhuizen (2007). Beyond the quantum. World Scientific. p. 250. ISBN 981-277-117-4. 
  5. ^ SE Rugh, H Zinkernagel (2002). "The quantum vacuum and the cosmological constant problem". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 33 (4): 663–705. doi:10.1016/S1355-2198(02)00033-3.