September 8th, 2008

Meia calm

Quantum virtual particles brief

Took a snippet from Quirks & Quarks' recent pod cast starring the Large Hadron Collider, which is due to begin operation this Wednesday.  (MP3, 708KB)
There are all these what we call `virtual Higgses' permeating the vacuum; and that's all to do with quantum mechanics, because quantum mechanics tells you that, for instance, the vacuum—it's not just empty space. Things are coming out of the vacuum—particle, antiparticle—appears all the time and disappearing back into the vacuum; and as particles propogate through space-time, they interact with these virtual Higgses, and that's what we call mass. It's this interaction with virtual particles. So, if you want to actually see them, you can take energy from your collider and put it into a little piece of space-time, and then it makes these particles real; and you can see them pop out—with a bit of luck—and you see them in the detector.
That's just how I've always imagined reality.
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