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A Theory of Everything

The kind of science being done by quantum physicists today is incomprehensible to the rest of us, whose science knowledge is now out-of-date. The best scientists are searching for a theory of everything: a single theory that unites all of the universe's fundamental forces. You could even call it a quest for God.

At Purdue University, quantum physicist Ephraim Fischbach is trying to understand how tiny objects placed very close together can influence each other. His experiment involves the behavior of a minuscule gold ball, which is not magnetic, as it moves over different substances. He couldn?t detect any way that the ball influenced other substances, but in the process of doing these experiments, he did find a new force that does influence tiny objects?even more than gravity. He calls this the Casimir force, which is defined as a powerful attraction between tiny objects that are separated from each other by a few hundred nanometers, or billionths of a meter.

Ricardo S. Decca, who is part of the team, says, "We're doing work that could have cosmological implications, but it rests on the behavior of objects too small to see with the naked eye?What we are trying to do is find out whether gravity behaves differently than we think it does if the scale is small enough."

When things get tiny the laws of physics that govern big things don't work the same way anymore. Since this is the case, we may be able to create what once would have been called miracles, simply by manipulating particles at the atomic level. One of these creations could be an incredibly tiny microcomputer. Fischbach says, "Without compensating for the Casimir force, nanoparticles might clump together, nanogears might jam and adjacent nanowires might short out due to its attraction effects?Observations of this Casimir force could make life easier for nanotechnologists, whose tiny creations will be subject to its effects?Anyone creating a nanodevice will have to consider the Casimir force, just as a car manufacturer has to consider tire friction and air resistance."

Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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