something nothing

Physicists Prove You Can Create Something From Nothing by Simulating Cosmic Physics – The Debrief

A team of physicists claim to have proven a 70-year-old quantum theory that something can be created out of nothing.

An experiment designed to study the flow of “low valence” electrons accidentally succeeded in producing an analog of particle-antiparticle pairs where none had existed before, using only an electric field and the almost magical properties of the 2D graphene material . The experiment was carried out in January by a research team working at the University of Machester.

Previous theories held that such a process could only take place in very high energy environments like the vicinity of a black hole or the center of a neutron star. However, the latest breakthrough was achieved using standard laboratory equipment.

The Schwinger effect theorized more than 50 years ago

In physics, there are situations where individual particles can be manipulated to create additional particles seemingly out of thin air. For example, if you take a quantum particle known as a meson and try to rip off its quark, a whole new set of particle-antiparticle pairs will emerge between them out of the void of empty space. Yet this situation involves starting with something – a meson – and creating more “somethings” out of it.

But in 1951, Julian Schwinger, one of the founders of quantum electrodynamics and a physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1964, suggested that creating matter from empty space should be possible, even if it isn’t. there’s nothing to start with, as long as you disturb that empty space with a strong enough electric field. Since then, this completely theoretical concept has simply been known as the Schwinger effect. Now, a team of researchers has shown that effect to be real by essentially creating something out of pure nothingness.

Nothing nothing means nothing. Unless you have a strong electric field

“In the universe we inhabit, it is truly impossible to create ‘nothing’ satisfactorily. Everything that exists, at a fundamental level, can be broken down into individual entities – quanta – that cannot be broken down any further,” writes Ethan Siegel of think big, explaining the foundations of the recent breakthrough in physics. “These elementary particles include quarks, electrons, the electron’s heavier cousins ​​(muons and taus), neutrinos, and all of their antimatter counterparts, as well as photons, gluons, and bosons. heavy: W+, W-, Z0 and Higg. If you remove them all, however, the remaining “empty space” is not quite empty in many physical senses.

What remains is the quantum field, the general background energy that permeates the entire universe (hint star wars music “the force”!) In Schwinger’s theory, if you apply a sufficiently massive electric field to a completely empty region of space, the quantum field in that space will pick up some of that electric energy and create particle- antiparticle from nothingness.

Back in January University of Manchester scientists were working on the conduction of “valence electrons,” essentially trying to get all classes of electrons to join the flow by tinkering with graphene, a material that is effectively two-dimensional in nature. This unique structure facilitates this type of experiment by limiting the pathways elementary particles like electrons can take, which will hopefully result in an essentially uniform flow of electrons if the right amount of electrical energy is pumped in. in the system. However, once the team actually began their experiments, something unexpected happened.

“They filled their simulated vacuum with electrons and accelerated them to the maximum speed allowed by the vacuum of graphene, which is 1/300 the speed of light,” recently University of Manchester press release explains. “At this point, something seemingly impossible happened: the electrons seemed to become superluminous, providing an electric current greater than that allowed by the general rules of quantum condensed matter physics. The origin of this effect was been explained as the spontaneous generation of additional charge carriers (holes).

As noted, this result was somewhat unexpected: the creation of an analogue of electron-positron pairs where previously only empty space existed. Indeed, this lab-level electric field was powerful enough to create something pure out of nothing.

“The main signatures of the non-equilibrium state are current-voltage characteristics resembling those of superconductors, sharp differential resistance spikes, sign reversal of the Hall effect, and a marked anomaly caused by the production of Schwinger type of hot-electron holey plasma,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.

It turns out that this anomalous electron-hole plasma is a perfect analog of the particle-antiparticle pair predicted by Schwinger. So, indeed, even using a low-power electric field (at least compared to the center of a black hole or neutron star), the team accidentally proved the Schwinger effect, creating something there where there was practically nothing.

“When we first saw the spectacular characteristics of our superlattice devices, we thought ‘wow…this could be some kind of new superconductivity,'” explained Dr Roshan Krishna Kumar, one of the co – authors of the article. “Although the answer closely resembles those commonly seen in superconductors, we quickly discovered that the puzzling behavior was not superconductivity but rather something in the field of astrophysics and particle physics.”

That something, in this case, was the result of the Schwinger effect.

“It is curious to see such parallels between distant disciplines,” added Kumar.

“People typically study electronic properties using tiny electric fields that allow easier analysis and theoretical description,” said the paper’s first author, Dr. Alexey Berduygin, postdoctoral researcher at The University of Manchester. “We decided to push the strength of the electric fields as much as possible using different experimental tricks so as not to burn our devices.”

Dr. Na Xin, co-lead author of the paper, said it was an unexpected but pleasant surprise, given the risks of pushing their equipment to such extremes.

“We were just wondering what could happen to that extreme,” Xin said. “To our surprise, it was the Schwinger effect rather than smoke coming out of our setup.”

Something is better than nothing

The researchers note that their experiments were low enough in energy that creating true electron-positron pairing is still out of reach. But, they say, the analog plasma “hole” created is proof that the Schwinger effect is real, and that with enough energy, material particles can be created out of pure nothingness.

So it can be a long time before lab equipment large enough to create matter from nothingness brings things like food replicators or matter-energy carriers to reality. But seeing the results of the Manchester team’s experiments, the idea of ​​making something from scratch has been officially proven.

“With electrons and positrons (or ‘holes’) created out of literally nothing, simply plucked out of the quantum vacuum by the electric fields themselves, it’s yet another way for the Universe to demonstrate the seemingly impossible. “, says Siegel.

“You really can make something out of absolutely nothing!”

Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter @plain_fiction.

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