The civilization I've built has developed the technology for near limitless, sustained power generation. Through this advancement it's been possible for them to solve for Alcubierre's Bubbles and traverse short distances (less than 1 light year) through artificial breaches into subspace largely through a greater understanding of Casimir Effect / Pressure and to traverse far greater distances through naturally occurring wormholes.

Would it be theoretically possible to apply the principles behind the Casimir Effect and Casimir Pressure as it applies to zero-point-energy / negative energy density to do the following:

  • Reduce the size (length) necessary for a railgun to be used in space (see other articles/questions on railguns in space) by taking advantage of Casimir Pressure as the primary accelerant or more likely as a catalyst for the creation of the EM Acceleration Field? (Also potentially using this at both ends to cancel out recoil). Essentially asking, can the Casimir pressure and negative energy density (which has been studied as it applies to tiny spaces) be used to reduce the size requirements of a railgun by acting as a catalyst or even the main driving force behind the creation of the EM Acceleration Field.

I realize this is purely theoretical and am mostly looking for someone with more understanding of physics than myself to say "technically yes" or "absolutely no." No need to answer in great detail (unless you want to), I'm honestly considering just hand-waving this due to how many bits of data that do apply are still purely theoretical to us now.

Additional Assumptions:

  • Power generation is not a factor, assume it's near infinite and can be applied as needed.
  • Computing power is not a factor, assume it's near infinite and can be applied as needed.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Too broad - I believe this fails the book test, it also seems like it could be the basis for a thesis, which would make this way too long to cover... $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Apr 25, 2018 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is of good scope if you stick to one of the two points. Either pick Albucierre or Casimir and ask a question about that. With the two points together, it is basically two separate questions and is thus too broad as @Aify suggests. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ This is so far at the cutting edge of physics that as a SF writer, you can handwave anything you want. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what is actual question here. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ That's Cas i mir Effect, from the name of Hendrik Casimir. Great grammar joke from Language Hat: She: Küsse mir, Kasimir! He (correcting her use of pronominal declension): "Mich"! She: Also gut, küsse mir, Kasimich! $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 25, 2018 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Regarding the Casimir Effect, I'd give a pretty hard no with a pretty simple reason - the Casimir Effect is an attractive force between two uncharged plates. If you want to create a gun using it, you're going to run into the issue that these two plates are going to hit each other. If anything, the Casimir effect will actually decrease the power of a railgun, as it will work to "suck" the projectile back into the barrel.

But even putting that aside and getting to the math, the Casimir effect is really very weak. Its strength is given by $F = \frac{\pi h c}{480 L^4}A$, where $h$ is Plank's constant, $c$ is the speed of light, $L$ is the distance between the plates, and $A$ is the area of the two plates. This site gives a quick example to demonstrate just how weak the force really is. Using plates 1 meter square, placed 1 micron apart we get

$F=\frac{\pi * 6.6 * 10^{-34} * 3 * 10^8}{480 * 10^{-24}} * 1$

$F = 1.3 mN$

1.3 micronewtons is not enough force to do anything at all really, so I'd say forget about it.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! That's where I was stuck (in my limited understanding of physics). I understood enough to say either yes, this could do what I want given enough power and surface area. Or. No, this does the opposite of what I want. However! Now I have an excellent idea for how to integrate the Casimir effect into my idea for a mass transit system and apply it to gradual/rapid deceleration in conjunction with a Null Field generator to bleed off inertia. Thanks again! $\endgroup$
    – Rakashua
    Apr 25, 2018 at 20:34

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