The ultimate free lunch is the universe itself. The vacuum is not truly empty; in fact, at the smallest scales it is quite dynamic with lots of energy and mass blinking into and out of existence in the twinkling of a quantum's eye. But something happened about 14 billion years ago to stabilize one of these quantum fluctuations. Space, time, energy, and ultimately matter erupted in what we call the Big Bang. It then expanded and ultimately coalesced into the familiar environment we find around us. Now, if only we could do the same thing and tap this energy of the vacuum, or "zero-point energy'' (ZPE), on even a small scale, we would have the energy at our disposal to sail right up to the speed of light!

It is quite possible that the inertia of all objects with mass is due to interaction with this quantum foam. Perhaps we could learn some day to "polarize" the vacuum so that a starship might accelerate off in a selected direction like a massless particle traveling at speeds that we can only imagine.

Sadly, all experimental efforts to date to tap ZPE have been fruitless, which leaves them at a Technological Readiness Level of Zero.

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