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The Hamburg Connection

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Abstract

In the mid-1920s Nernst’s hypothesis of a universe filled with zero-point radiation was considered within the framework of the static cosmological model that Einstein had suggested in 1917. With this work quantum theory was introduced into relativistic cosmology for the first time, but the result was disappointing. Wolfgang Pauli and other leading physicists, including Einstein, maintained that zero-point energy could be ascribed to material systems only. When it turned up in the free electromagnetic field, it was as a mathematical artefact. Nernst’s hypothesis thus appeared to be a blind alley.

Keywords

  • Zero-point energy
  • Electromagnetic field
  • Cosmic radiation temperature
  • Static universe model

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Fig. 6.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The text refers to “radioactive \(\beta \)-rays,” but this is undoubtedly a misprint.

  2. 2.

    First reported in Enz and Thellung (1960, p. 842), and later in Enz (2002, p. 152) and many other places, e.g., Rugh and Zinkernagel (2002). Pauli told the story to Enz and Thellung, and also to Stern about 1950, but it is unclear when he made the calculation.

  3. 3.

    Straumann (2009) checked the calculation while a student in Zurich, after having heard about the problem from Enz and Thellung. Neither Enz, Thellung, Straumann nor other authors commenting on the story seem to be aware of Lenz’s paper. This paper contains no mention of Pauli and there is also no indication of the problem in Pauli’s scientific correspondence from the 1920s (Pauli 1979).

  4. 4.

    For the historical context of Dirac’s “hole” theory of the electron, see Kragh (1990, pp. 88–105); for technical and philosophical aspects, Saunders (1991).

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Correspondence to Helge S. Kragh .

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Kragh, H.S., Overduin, J.M. (2014). The Hamburg Connection. In: The Weight of the Vacuum. SpringerBriefs in Physics. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55090-4_6

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