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Science isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. The process of open publication, peer review and clear data are a part of science because they help us understand how the Universe works. It can be inconvenient and contentious, but it works. Through this process, new ideas are faced with an uphill battle. This is particularly true of ideas that would contradict the foundational theories of physics. So it's tempting to react to such opposition by playing a different game. Rather than addressing criticism, you start building a story where your idea is obviously right, and others are simply too closed-minded to see it. Down that path lies pseudoscience, and sometimes you can watch it happening. Take for example, Mike McCulloch's theory of Modified inertia by a Hubble-scale Casimir effect (MiHsC), also known as quantized inertia.

McCulloch's model has been in the works since 2008, but it has become popular in recent years due to its connection to the EMDrive. You might recall this as the device that (according to its proponents) can create a thrust without any traditional propellant which could revolutionize space travel and take us to the stars. The EMDrive has created quite a stir among the general public because of the tremendous possibilities if it succeeds. Meanwhile, scientists have noted that even the best experimental results can't be distinguished from background noise, and that such a device would violate basic physics. McCulloch argued that the effect was not only real, but that it could be explained in the context of his model.

The basic idea of MiHsC is that inertia is caused by Unruh radiation. Inertia is a basic property of matter, and means that the velocity of an object will remain constant unless a force acts on it. It is the basis of Newton's first law of motion. Unruh radiation has never been observed, but it appears in quantum physics. In quantum theory, empty space can be described as being filled with a quantum field. A vacuum, in this view, is simply the lowest possible energy state for these fields. In most cases empty space looks like a vacuum as we’d expect, but for an accelerating observer the field has an observed energy. As a result, an accelerating observer would be heated by quantum particles known as Unruh radiation. McCulloch argues that when an object accelerates it interacts with Unruh radiation, which causes the object to resist a change of motion. Thus inertia is an effect of acceleration rather than an inherent property of matter.

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Category: Science