What is in the void ?: The quantum experiment that measured what is in "nothing"


At the quantum level, the rules of the game change. We know that there is something there, but is it possible to measure it?

Imagine you are in a haunted house. It is an abandoned, dark and frozen villa.

When you enter the house it seems empty, but suddenly you start to hear strange things they come from nothing.

In the middle of the silence a ghost will pass by you, a voice is heard in the kitchen, a few steps creak the wooden floor … Where do these attendance if no one is home?

This nightmare is just an example to understand what we call "The void".

To understand this, we need to identify two ways of seeing the reality.

In "classic" reality, that's how scientists call the world we can see and hear, it's easy to understand what is empty. It is simply a space in which there is nothing.


Quantum particles behave like ghosts, but have nothing to do with paranormal phenomena.

But in "quantum" realitythat is, to the subatomic scales that we cannot detect with the naked eye, the void seems much more like that haunted house.

In the quantum vacuum, although we can remove any element of the classical world, such as light or heat, and it is not "nothing", suddenly the particles will begin to appear which can be detected for short moments, like a ghost.

Like the haunted house, although in the quantum vacuum there is apparently nothing, in reality it is full of particles, energy and waves that to rise so mysterious and they quickly disappear.

Scientists have already succeeded in detecting these particles, but now, an experiment from the Austria Institute of Quantum Electronics states that it was able to measure for the first time the fluctuations that these particles generate in the "empty" space.

It is as if already "Feel" that c & # 39; is a ghost, but in the end we could see the white trail that leaves in its wake.

quantum device

Cristina Benea-Chelmus
The experiment was performed on this device that creates a "pure vacuum".

Something that comes from nothing

Of course, you remember that at school they taught you the material it is not created or destroyedthat is, it is impossible for something to emerge from nothing.

At the quantum level, however, Yes, it is possible.

"For a short period of time it is possible to create energy from an empty space," says Cristina Benea-Chelmus, coadjutor of the study and applied scientific researcher at Harvard University.

"It happens like this spontaneous, we cannot know when it will happen, but it will happen ".

In the experiment, Benea-Chelmus observed that fluctuations in the vacuum propagate in the time and space.

At the quantum level, when we talk about space we refer to nanometric scales. And when we talk about the weather, I am short periods.


Quantum particles generate fluctuations in the electromagnetic field.

For example, to measure fluctuations, they used lasting laser beats in the experiment 10 ^ -15 seconds.

To reach the "Pure vacuum cleaner", As Benea-Chelmus calls it, and therefore measuring what happens there, the researcher used a device cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero and from which any source of light that could "contaminate" that purity was blocked.

"This is the maximum near the void you can't reach that limit, "says Benea-Chelmus.

Inside the device there was a special crystal that reacts to the fluctuations of the vacuum, which is the only thing that remains after any other type of matter has been eliminated or electromagnetic radiation.

So seeing how the features of the glass Once the vacuum oscillations have been overcome, Benea-Chelmus and his team were able to measure the electromagnetic field they generate.


Where there seems to be nothing, there is always something.

Quantum ghosts

The quantum vacuum is not a place where there is nothing, only that the particles, the fluctuations and the energy that are there are so tiny and so ephemeral that, for now, it is impossible extract or transform them.

Fluctuations that occur in a vacuum are responsible for calls "Spontaneous releases", which are emissions that are used in light-emitting devices, such as mobile phone screens.

This type of experiment could mean progress in this field, but the authors of the study underline that the measure they have succeeded in doing coincides with what the quantum theory describes and has now been demonstrated.

Benea-Chelmus recognizes that we are still far from fully understanding these phenomena, but its discovery is a further step to decipher the mysteries of the quantum physics and better understand what are those particles that at the moment look like ghosts.

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