I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by relativistic horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation, cosmic acceleration & some observed lab thrusts without any dark stuff or adjustment. My Plymouth University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Can inertia be modified electromagnetically?

The first assumption of MiHsC is that inertia is caused by Unruh radiation (the second is that this radiation is subject to a Hubble-scale Casimir effect). Unruh radiation is like the Hawking radiation from the event horizon of a black hole, but Unruh's variety comes from a Rindler horizon that forms behind an accelerated object.

It has been assumed that we have no separate control over inertia, but if inertia is due to Unruh radiation (as implied by the agreement of MiHsC with data in low acceleration regimes) then we can control inertia, since we can manipulate radiation. There is a problem in that the wavelength (l) of Unruh radiation is given roughly by l=8c^2/a, where c is the speed of light and 'a' is the acceleration. For the sort of accelerations that happen on Earth (9.8 m/s^2) the Unruh wavelength is 7*10^16 meters. This is about ten light years! Rather outside our capability as yet.

However, what if we could accelerate something so fast that the Unruh radiation it sees is short enough that we can interfere with it? At CERN they fire particles around a 1 km radius ring at 0.9 times the speed of light so the acceleration (v^2/r) is 7.3*10^13 m/s^2 and the Unruh radiation the particle sees would have a wavelength of only 9.7 km. These are long radio waves, within our technology, and this may bring inertial mass within our reach. There is a caveat, because of special relativity you would have to fire EM radiation of wavelength 22 km at the particle so that in its reference frame they would be 9.7 km long, but the idea is that the radiation would interfere with the particle's inertial mass and so its trajectory would change anomalously. I proposed this experiment in this paper (see the last section before the conclusion).

Another way to get big accelerations is to use NEMS (Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems) which are tiny pendulums that can accelerate at 10^11 m/s^2 (NEMS were pointed out to me by D. Iannuzzi). Another way is to get electrons to propagate over the extremely curved surface of a gold nanotip, as in the experiment of Beversluis et al. (2003) to give accelerations of 10^22 m/s^2 (see references below). This case is very interesting since Beversluis et al saw anomalous radiation coming off these nanotips and Smolyaninov showed it was in the right wavelength range to be Unruh radiation (this is possibly the first observation of Unruh radiation?).

Anyway, if MiHsC is right, and inertia is due to Unruh radiation, it gives us a way to modify inertia electromagnetically and (if momentum is conserved) it would allow us to move things around in a new way.


Beversluis, M.R., A. Bouhelier and L. Novotny, 2003. Continuum generation from single gold nanostructures through near-field mediated intraband transitions. Physical Review B, 68, 115433.

McCulloch, M.E., 2010. Minimum accelerations from quantised inertia. EPL, 90, 29001 (see the last section: a suggested practical test). arxiv preprint

Smolyaninov, I.I., 2008. Physics Letters A, 372, 7043-7045. arxiv preprint

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