Research, Technology

Can particles come from the void?

Modern physics is going through hard times.On one side lies quantum theory, which describes the structure of the universe at the atomic level, and on the other, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (GR), according to which space and time can be curved under the influence of gravity. The problem is that separately both GR and quantum mechanics work fine, but they contradict each other's postulates. For this reason, physicists have been working to create a unified "theory of everything" for the past 90 years. But with each new discovery, there are more and more questions, but researchers do not stop trying to get to the bottom of the truth - the results of the first experiment of its kind showed that in a curved and expanding universe, pairs of particles appear from empty space. The result obtained during the simulation again brings us back to the question of how something can arise from nothing. In other words, one step forward and two steps back.

Miniature Universe Shows Particles Can Come From Empty Space

A first-of-its-kind experiment simulating space with ultracold potassium atoms suggests that in a warped, expanding universe, pairs of particles emerge from empty space.

Where do particles come from?

A first-of-its-kind experiment simulatingspace with ultracold potassium atoms suggests that in a warped, expanding universe, pairs of particles emerge from empty space. This groundbreaking experiment aims to better understand cosmic phenomena that are difficult to detect because particles can emerge from empty space as the universe expands.

In the course of the work, physicists from the University of Heidelberg in Germany cooled more than 20,000 potassium atoms in a vacuum, using lasers to slow them down and lower the temperature.

Bose-Einstein condensate allows physicists to manipulate atoms

As a result of extreme cooling, the atoms formed a small cloud (about the width of a human hair), turning into a quantum, liquid-like substance - a Bose-Einstein condensate.

When atoms become Bose-Einstein condensatesthey can be controlled by directing light at them, and then set their density, location in space and what effect they have on each other. We talked more in one of the previous articles, do not miss it.

In fact, the new experiment allows you to changeproperties of atoms, causing them to follow an equation that, in the real universe, determines its properties, including the speed of light and the effect of gravity near massive objects. As the authors of the scientific work note, this is the first experiment in which cold atoms were used to simulate a curved and expanding (with acceleration) Universe.

At the micro level, the universe looks different, obeying the laws of quantum mechanics

When the researchers turned their light onfrozen atoms, they moved as if pairs of particles arising in the real Universe. The new experiment makes it possible to combine quantum effects and gravity, which is surprising, since physicists do not quite understand how two contradictory theories fit together in the universe. It also means that future experiments with can lead to a better understanding of the quantum universe and possibly closer to creating a theory of everything.

More on the topic: Scientists close to creating a new theory of quantum gravity

universe of probabilities

Our expanding universe is essentiallya perfectly acceptable solution to the equations of general relativity. However, its expansion rate creates problems for quantum mechanics - there are many possible states in which particles can be. But the question arises - if space is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, is the number of particles in it growing? And is it possible to get something from nothing?

Imagine that we have an empty space in front of us -the limit of physical non-existence, which, under certain conditions and manipulations, will inevitably lead to the appearance of something. Thus, the collision of two particles in the abyss of empty space can lead to the appearance of a particle-antiparticle pair. If we try to separate a quark from an antiquark, then a new set of pairs must emerge from the empty space between them.

Scientists still cannot explain all the laws of the quantum world, including quantum entanglement (Albert Einstein called it creepy)

Theoretically, a strong enough electromagnetic field can pull particles and antiparticles out of a vacuum, even without any initial particles or antiparticles at all, the physicists explain.

At the beginning of 2022 in a simple laboratoryUsing the unique properties of graphene, strong electric fields were created in a plant that allows spontaneous creation of particle-antiparticle pairs from nothing. You will be surprised, but the assumption that something can be created from the void appeared about 70 years ago - then this idea came to one of the founders of quantum theory, Julian Schwinger, and subsequently received confirmation. The universe really creates something out of nothing.

Read even more interesting articles about what laws the Universe obeys and what this says about our reality on our channel in Yandex.Zen - articles that are not on the site are regularly published there!

This means that, at a fundamental level,In our universe, atoms can be broken down into separate particles - quanta, which, however, cannot be further split. The same is true of electrons, neutrinos, and their antimatter counterparts. The same fate awaits photons, gluons and bosons (including the Higgs boson). However, if you remove all these particles, the remaining "empty space" will not really be empty - in many physical senses.

Just like we can't take away from the universelaws of physics, we cannot take away from it the quantum fields that permeate it. On the other hand, no matter how far we push any sources of matter, there are two long-range forces whose consequences will still remain: electromagnetism and gravity.

The universe obeys the laws of gravity, the nature of which physicists still do not understand

Although we can create clever settings,guaranteeing that the strength of the electromagnetic field in a certain area is zero, we cannot do this for gravity; space cannot be "totally emptied" in any real sense for that matter.

Don't Miss: Can Quantum Mechanics Explain Spacetime Existence?

Something from Nothing

Demonstrate that the empty space onin fact, it is not - the task is laborious, but at the same time real. So, even if you create a perfect vacuum, devoid of all particles and antiparticles, and electric and magnetic fields are equal to zero, there will still be something in the vacuum that physicists can call, say, “maximum nothingness”.

So thought Julian Schwinger in 1951, describinghow (theoretically) it is possible to create matter from nothing: this would require a strong electric field. And although his colleagues proposed something similar in the 1930s, it was Schwinger who was able to accurately determine the necessary conditions for this experiment, based on the fact that quantum fluctuations are somehow present in empty space, the physicists say.

Particles can arise from the void.

You will be interested: Did the Universe have a beginning?

According to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle,if quantum fields exist everywhere, then in any chosen period of time and region of space, an initially indeterminate amount of energy will be present. And the shorter the period of time we are considering, the greater the uncertainty in the amount of energy.

In fact, the only place where particlesarise from the void - these are regions in space that surround black holes and neutron stars. But at the vast cosmic distances separating us from the closest objects, our assumptions remain purely theoretical.

The universe holds many secrets that we have yet to uncover.

This is interesting: Nobel Prize in Physics 2022: quantum entanglement and teleportation

But since we know that electrons and positronsliterally arise from nothing (they are simply pulled out of the quantum vacuum by electric fields) The universe demonstrates the impossible. Luckily, there are many ways to explore our strange world, whether it's through math, experiments with graphene (we've covered this in more detail earlier), or lasers. And although we are still far from the truth and the creation of a unified theory of everything, today we know not so little about the world in which we live. Is not it?