Saturday, August 20, 2011

Setterfield, SED (Stochastic Electrodynamics), and NASA

I recently received an e-mail query in regards to Barry Setterfield's activities. I've been a little slack keeping up on that front as Mr. Setterfield began attaching many of his claims to the Electric Universe and I've had a lot of activity there.

The query reported that a Dutch site was suggesting that NASA was using a theory called SED for futuristic propulsion and that SED was related to Barry Setterfield's zero-point energy (ZPE) driver for his theory of c-decay (for more details on the problems with Setterfield's work, see additional links).

After a few searches, I found an English translation that was probably the original source of the information, which turned out to be the Zero Point Energy page on Setterfield's site.

Setterfield's page is largely a combination of quotations from more legitimate work spun together with Setterfield's own claims to make them appear consistent.  Setterfield often tries to connect his work to other, more legitimate work, probably in an attempt to raise his own credibility.  Most of it is pure nonsense that fails numerous other tests as documented in many other analyses.

Setterfield spends a lot of time trying to connect his use of the Zero-Point Energy (ZPE) to Stochastic Electrodynamics (SED), and then makes the NASA connection:
Setterfield: “On the positive side, NASA and other organizations have hired SED physicists in order to discover a power source for spacecraft and earth-bound applications utilizing the ZPE.”

Just What Is SED?

SED is Stochastic Electrodynamics (wikipedia), basically an idea to explain quantum mechanical principles by incorporating some randomness in electrodynamics through an interaction with the zero-point energy (wikipedia).

SED is NOT Setterfield's idea.

SED's origin can be traced back to the 1960s.  While SED has enjoyed some successes in matching predictions of some quantum phenomena, it has not been uniformly successful.  Even one of its original proponents regards it as something of a failure.  From Trevor Marshall, one of the developers of SED:
“While achieving some notable successes, for example with the Casimir effect, SED must overall be judged a failure.“
Not everyone has given up on SED and are exploring other variants:
Contribution from stochastic electrodynamics to the understanding of quantum mechanics

Zero-point energy has often been invoked to support a number of pseudo-scientific claims, such as various types of 'free-energy' devices.  I've yet to find any demonstration of one of these devices that can conclusively produce more energy than goes into it from other sources.  Bob Park has written about some of these devices in his book, "Voodoo Science" (wikipedia).

Setterfield's statement that NASA is hiring SED physicists is a bit dated.  The group was chartered to explore possible advanced propulsion techniques and there was some examination of possible applications of ZPE.  However, the group was shut down some years ago due to budget cuts (NASA: Breakthrough Propulsion Physics).  I've not seen any evidence that the ZPE explorations by this group used any of Setterfield's 'ideas'.

The bottom line is that NASA is NOT using any of Setterfield's ideas related to the ZPE or even the SED methodology.

The Electric Universe Connection

Towards the end of Setterfield's ZPE page, Setterfield appears to be actively courting the Electric Universe advocates.
Setterfield: “It is interesting that some of the Thunderbolts group of correspondents do not accept the ZPE. In this context I might point out that there are a diverse group of correspondents there and not everyone has the same views. Furthermore, I presented a major paper about the ZPE and the redshift at a science conference in June, and Dave Talbott of Thunderbolts was there to hear it!”
The presentation in question is apparently based on Setterfield's ZPE paper: “Zero Point Energy and the Redshift“, PROCEEDINGS of the NPA 6(2):1-10, 2010.  This is apparently a follow-on to material I've written about before:
Update May 13, 2014: fixed broken link.


    l_johan_k said...

    Thank u for taking the time to debunk Setterfield. :)

    Anonymous said...

    A real stretch to consider that a "rebunk". Especially since Setterfield's latest work wasn't considered.

    W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

    To Anonymous,

    All Setterfield's 'latest work' does is try to shoe-horn Electric Universe/Plasma Cosmology claims into his, an effort which has its own problems (see Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists'...).

    Setterfield likes to 'hand wave' and claim his unspecified 'calculations' give the same results.

    But real scientists reveal their full calculations, such as in published papers and textbooks where others can learn, verify, and expand on the work. I tried to verify Setterfield's calculations and demonstrated how they fail on a far more basic level than Setterfield is willing to admit (see A Changing Speed of Light?).