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Are Virtual Particles A New Layer of Reality?

The Human Collective
Published on 30 Sep 2022 / In Science

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Let me tell you a story about virtual particles. It may or may not be true.

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Sometimes our mathematical hacks point to strange new aspects of reality. For example Max Planck used a quantization trick to figure out the spectrum of light emitted by hot objects. The quantization part of his math trick was meant to disappear in the final form of equation, but it remained - it proved fundamental. That math hack turned out to represent the very real quantum nature of the photon. This insight let to the discovery of all quantum physics. A more recent mathematical hack is the virtual particle. They started out as a trick to make impossible calculations in quantum field theory possible. Possible, at least, for the sort of people who can do quantum field theory. So will virtual particles also prove to represent a new underlying aspect of reality? Weโ€™re going to go pretty deep in this one - but it will bring us to a better understanding of the quantum nature of reality, so stick with me.

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