Monday, June 02, 2008

Quantum Weirdness for Monday

Can something come of nothing? Philosophers debated that question for millennia before physics came up with the answer—and that answer is yes. For quantum theory has shown that a vacuum (ie, nothing) only appears to be empty space. Actually, it is full of virtual particles of matter and their anti-matter equivalents, which, in obedience to Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, flit in and out of existence so fast that they cannot usually be seen.

This makes the Casimir effect possible, something that now, according to the, may have a practical use.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I always think it's a mistake when we too quickly attribute philosophical significance to a scientific principle. I would argue that the vacuum energy merely shows that so-called "empty space" is not really "nothing." Space can be considered a field between surrounding matter, much the same way that an electromagnetic field fills the space between charged bodies. This would no more be "nothing" than the energy emitting from the sun could be considered "nothing."