In fact, the vacuum is full of various particles that are continuously fluctuating in and out of existence. They appear, exist for a brief moment and then disappear again. Since their existence is so fleeting, they are usually referred to as virtual particles.
Chalmers scientist, Christopher Wilson and his co-workers have succeeded in getting photons to leave their virtual state and become real photons, i.e. measurable light.
To call this experiment "brilliant" is more than a clever pun!
The reality long clung to by past metaphysical thinkers often included the concept that there was no such thing as a vacuum; there was no space that wasn't somehow imbued with an ethereal substance.
Of course, that was not scientific, and since science up until recently seemed unwilling to accept anything it could not directly measure as real; the notion of virtual particles was a real head scratcher for some traditionalists.
Here they have managed to actually detect these particles popping into reality.... from nothing.
In a universe where something can come from nothing... is it really safe to say that we "know" anything for certain?
The scientists find the photons that appear in pairs in the experiment interesting to study in closer detail. They can perhaps be of use in the research field of quantum information, which includes the development of quantum computers.
However, the main value of the experiment is that it increases our understanding of basic physical concepts, such as vacuum fluctuations -- the constant appearance and disappearance of virtual particles in vacuum. It is believed that vacuum fluctuations may have a connection with "dark energy" which drives the accelerated expansion of the universe. The discovery of this acceleration was recognised this year with the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Well worth considering ... and expounding on the possibilities...
(visit the link for the full news article)
edit on 18-11-2011 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)