Blob

2006-Oct-09, 09:23 AM

Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence? Or are they merely a mathematical bookkeeping device for quantum mechanics?

Virtual particles are indeed real particles. Quantum theory predicts that every particle spends some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways. These predictions are very well understood and tested.

Quantum mechanics allows, and indeed requires, temporary violations of conservation of energy, so one particle can become a pair of heavier particles (the so-called virtual particles), which quickly rejoin into the original particle as if they had never been there. If that were all that occurred we would still be confident that it was a real effect because it is an intrinsic part of quantum mechanics, which is extremely well tested, and is a complete and tightly woven theory--if any part of it were wrong the whole structure would collapse.

Read more (http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=0004D0F8-772A-1526-B72A83414B7F0000&catID=3&topicID=13)

Virtual particles are indeed real particles. Quantum theory predicts that every particle spends some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways. These predictions are very well understood and tested.

Quantum mechanics allows, and indeed requires, temporary violations of conservation of energy, so one particle can become a pair of heavier particles (the so-called virtual particles), which quickly rejoin into the original particle as if they had never been there. If that were all that occurred we would still be confident that it was a real effect because it is an intrinsic part of quantum mechanics, which is extremely well tested, and is a complete and tightly woven theory--if any part of it were wrong the whole structure would collapse.

Read more (http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=0004D0F8-772A-1526-B72A83414B7F0000&catID=3&topicID=13)