This question about matter comes from a reader asking about something I recently mentioned in a previous article.
I’ve seen some amazing illusions at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. They are enough to make you think so, but amazingly in our real world it really can happen.
Yes, virtual particles can pop into and out of existence. Some arguments come from a theoretical physicist as to what that really means, but after wading through his discussion with which I don’t fully agree, the answer is yes, from our perspective. What are we really talking about here?
Matter- atoms as we know it- are made up of electrons, protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks- smaller stuff. A simple hydrogen, atom, for example, is made up of an electron and a proton. The proton is in turn made up of two “up” quarks and one “down” quark. The electron is already a subatomic particle.
You’ll remember that all matter including our quarks, are really just a different form of energy we perceive to have the characteristics of matter.
Basically, the state of being matter is the effect from energy interacting with the Higgs field.
Once created matter remains matter forever, unless it is destroyed and turned back into energy (through fusion for example as in a star).
It has permanence and definition. Most of our complex atoms date back to the stars formed in the creation of our galaxy perhaps 10 billion years ago or so.
Energy interaction with a field creates a virtual particle BUT the “particle” does not remain permanent – it can disappear and its “virtual” definition therefore means temporary but no one knows for how long any one particular particle will last.
So where do virtual particles go? Do they actually cease to exist or do they simply move somewhere else to reappear in somewhere other that what we recognize as our visible universe? Or do they turn back into energy? We don’t really know yet. They just cease to be.
You can read about it here:
I suspect – and this is my own conjecture – that there is another larger reality beyond what we normally comprehend as our universe. In the future we will better understand dark matter and dark energy. I believe we will also better understand the creation and destruction of virtual particles.
If you spend much time near the ocean you are aware that waves often come in sets. After a set there can be relative calm before waves start up again.
As with a wave of water where one wave runs into another’s trough- creating a cancelled wave- flat water– virtual particles might be no more that constructive or destructive interference in the wave pattern in the interaction of the field- essentially one canceling or enhancing the other- again, like with ocean waves- big waves and then smooth.
Here is one other idea:
Imagine an hourglass turned upside down. Sand particles flow from one side into the other lower side disappearing from view in one side and reappearing on the other. If your visible universe was only one side of the hour glass you would see it completely disappear.
No, I’m not suggesting we live in an hour glass. But this visual might provide a metaphor.
If only one particle of sand moved to the other part it still exists it just exists somewhere else. It’s possible there is a “somewhere else” in our universe yet undiscovered. Perhaps that is where that which disappears from our realm reappears.