Does the universe repel itself? That is roughly the idea that researchers from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, Russia proposed in a recent paper. Their paper refers to the Casimir effect, which involves a quantum-physics phenomenon that was predicted and also later confirmed by the Dutch scientist Hendrik Casimir. The Casimir effect causes two conductive plates arranged in parallel in a vacuum to be attracted to each other by a force.
The idea that it might be responsible for previously unexplainable phenomena like dark energy is not completely novel. In general, it predicts that hard, fixed boundaries might lead to effects that produce certain forces, not only forces that attract, but also repel. The Russian researchers have now transferred the effect to a holographic model of the universe.
In doing this, they show in their paper that an analog of the Casimir effect actually results in a repulsive force that would correspond to the dark energy measured by astronomers. The universe would then repel itself at boundary surfaces that characterize its shape. Therefore, the more the universe now grows, the larger these boundary surfaces would also become, which would also increase the repelling force – just like what happens with dark energy.
However, there is also one restriction that has to be stated: the models analyzed mathematically by the two researchers are purely theoretical to date. Whether our universe can actually be explained by them is unclear. But the idea has a certain charm to it, because it would use something known, quantum theory, to explain something else previously completely unexplainable within the framework of our current models of physics.