Virtual Particles & Cause and Effect


#1

Are there any really good physicists on these forums? I recently ran across a phenomenon known as virtual particles, which are the particles that are left when you create a total vacuum. These particles seem to appear and disappear out of nothing (they’re really electrons). I’ve heard a couple of theories about where they possibly come from and where they possibly go. One is they appear and disappear out of the quantum dimension. Another is that they appear out of a tachyon (sp?) field that is a negative universe that exerts pressure to create the positive universe. Then there’s the anti-particle theory where a particle can come into existence out of nothing if an anti-particle comes into existence with it. Then there’s this theory that these virtual particles borrow the energy for their needed existence from future energy, then pay back the debt and disappear. As you can imagine, atheists have been using this phenomenon as an argument that something can be created out of nothing and they look at the whole field of quantum mechanics in general as evidence that things can happen without cause. This has an obvious negative effect on the theory of first cause and most other cosmological arguments for the existence of God.
Any help or explanation from physicists would be helpful.For more information do a google search for virtual particles.


#2

Considering that there are so many theories, it’s particularly (pun intended) annoying that the atheists latch on to the only one that serves their purposes with little evidence. I wish i knew more about this. Sorry. :stuck_out_tongue:


#3

Sorry, I’m not a physicist. But, my understanding of virtual particles is that they are essentially part of the “quantum foam.”

When one tries to ‘look at’ matter at the smallest possible dimensions–smaller than the Planck length, one gets into an area where up, down, sideways, as well as forward and backward in space or time, are virtually meaningless.

Empty space is never truly empty. Apparently virtual particles may be coming into existence and being destroyed constantly. A matter and anti-matter particle may come into existence, then cease to exist by colliding with each other. Even that transaction obeys the conservation laws of the universe.

All of that has nothing to do with God creating from nothing. Empty space is not nothing.

God does not start with empty space. Before God creates, there is no matter, no energy, no quantum foam, not even any empty space, not even any empty time. All of that comes into existence with His word of creation.

Everything thing that we see–matter, energy, virtual particles, our own selves–nothing contains within its own being a sufficient reason for its existence. It is contingent. It didn’t have to be. It could easily not have been!

But God is not contingent–because his very essence is His existence. He cannot not be.


#4

A related thread is Creation ex nihilo?

I think that science and faith being in agreement on any issue is a good sign, not a bad one.


#5

[quote=johnnycatholic]Then there’s this theory that these virtual particles borrow the energy for their needed existence from future energy, then pay back the debt and disappear. As you can imagine, atheists have been using this phenomenon as an argument that something can be created out of nothing…
[/quote]

God still has created the phenomenon itself.


#6

I do not have a degree in physics, though I have taken several physics courses. I am by no means an expert.

Here are my thoughts:

If you remember that matter and energy can be converted, one into the other, then these virtual particles are another way of looking at an energy interaction between non-virtual particles. My understanding is that their existence can be detected in very controlled environments, typically in a high-velocity particle accelerator.

I believe that some scientists think these virtual particles may help to explain why there are long range interactions (such as gravity) between bodies when there does not appear to be a medium for that interaction.

Suppose you tied a ball to a string and twirlled it about your head. The ball does not fly away because there is a tension (force) in the string equal to the force pulling the ball in the opposite direction. The string is the medium for the interaction between your hand and the ball. In the case of a planet orbiting the sun, there is no string over which the force of gravity interacts with the sun and the planet. The idea is that there may be sets of virtual particles that take the place of the string.

Similarly, there may be virtual particles acting as the medium for other forces, such as the strong and weak nuclear forces and the electromagnetic force.

I have heard some attempt to use the idea of virtual particles to explain the origin of the universe, but, in my option, holders of such beliefs would be hard pressed to demonstrate them, as all virtual particles seen thus far have been produced in an environment that already contains non-virtual matter.

And now I leave the matter (pun intended) to others more knowledgeable than I.


#7

Also, most virtual particles are *extremely *short lived. Typically they exist for less than a microsecond and some for much less than that. According to Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe by Spielberg and Anderson, the baryon designated “neutral sigma” exists for only 5.8 x 10^-20 seconds!


#8

Ecce Homo: Very interesting post. Am I understanding you correctly that, given the relationship between energy and matter, these particles that “pop” in and out of existance might actually be little more than “pure” energy changing states into “physicality” momentarily?

I know that wasn’t the main focus of your post, but I want to know if that’s related to what you said.


#9

[quote=Ghosty]Ecce Homo: Very interesting post. Am I understanding you correctly that, given the relationship between energy and matter, these particles that “pop” in and out of existance might actually be little more than “pure” energy changing states into “physicality” momentarily?

I know that wasn’t the main focus of your post, but I want to know if that’s related to what you said.
[/quote]

Yes, I believe you are describing what I intended to say.

An example comes to mind from the atomic model. Consider an electron around a nucleus that is being “energized” (energy is being added to the electron). Until the electron reaches a critical energy, it exists in one state or “shell”. Only upon reaching that critical energy does it “move” into a shell that is farther from the nucleus. This move is seemingly instantaneous, suggesting that the electron exists in discrete “locations” or energy states about the nucleus. You might be able to draw an analogy between the “popping” of the electron from one state to another and the “popping” into existence of these virtual particles.


#10

[quote=johnnycatholic]Are there any really good physicists on these forums? I recently ran across a phenomenon known as virtual particles, which are the particles that are left when you create a total vacuum. These particles seem to appear and disappear out of nothing (they’re really electrons). I’ve heard a couple of theories about where they possibly come from and where they possibly go. One is they appear and disappear out of the quantum dimension. Another is that they appear out of a tachyon (sp?) field that is a negative universe that exerts pressure to create the positive universe. Then there’s the anti-particle theory where a particle can come into existence out of nothing if an anti-particle comes into existence with it. Then there’s this theory that these virtual particles borrow the energy for their needed existence from future energy, then pay back the debt and disappear. As you can imagine, atheists have been using this phenomenon as an argument that something can be created out of nothing and they look at the whole field of quantum mechanics in general as evidence that things can happen without cause. This has an obvious negative effect on the theory of first cause and most other cosmological arguments for the existence of God.
Any help or explanation from physicists would be helpful.For more information do a google search for virtual particles.
[/quote]

What you are referring to are Planck particles. In some areas of quantam mechanics and string theory, space is not considered an empty vacuum. It has structure. At its most basic level it is referred to as the “granularity of space”. In some scenarios, these particles are considered to appear and disappear on the order of the Planck time (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_time), ~ 10^-43 seconds. The granularity of space is granular at the Planck length, ~1.6 x 10-35 m.

Mark
www.veritas-catholic.blogspot.com


#11

As I understand it, there are virtual particles and there are virtual particle pairs. A virtual particle is used to describe an interaction between two real particles and is temporary and is not observed. The virtual pair is a pair of virtual particles which exist for a very short time, but which cannot be observed directly, although some of their indirect effects can be observed. However, according to the Hawking theory of radiation, the pair may be broken apart if one of the particles falls into a black hole. It has been said that this could lead to problems for causality, since the information on one of the particles which dropped into the black hole could be lost, so it would look like the other was created out of nothing. But recently in 1996, the theory of p-branes has been advanced by Andrew Strominger and Cumrun Vafa, according to which a black hole is said to be made up of a number of p-branes. According to this model the particle falling into the black hole is not lost, so causality is not violated.


#12

I have a degree in Mathematical Physics, aka Theoretical Physics. However that was a long time ago and I have not really worked in Physics since then - I was a teacher and then worked in Computers. I am not sure if that makes me a good physicist or not.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle allows the breaking of the conservation of energy, but only for very low energies and for very short times. Basically the break has to be contained within the innate fuzziness seen at quantum scales. Of course a very low energy is equivalent to an extremely low mass by Einstein’s equation: E = mc^2. These short lived, low mass objects are virtual particles. They are sometimes referred to as “quantum foam”.

Many virtual particles appear as particle-antiparticle pairs. This is because Heisenberg allows minor short breaks in the conservation of energy but not in other conserved quantities, such as electric charge. Hence a virtual electron (negative charge) can only appear if there is also a virtual positron (positive charge) around to keep the overall electric charge of the universe unchanged. Think of the positron as a hole into which the electron fits, so when they meet they slot together and everything is smooth again. The initial energy to separate the two is “borrowed” by using Heisenberg. Normally they will almost immediately meet and destroy each other, releasing the energy back, so keeping the energy balance correct on the large scale. In some circumstances they can be kept apart and so one or the other will survive as a normal (non-virtual) particle.

Stephen Hawking described one such process. Consider a virtual electron-positron pair appearing just outside the event horizon of a Black Hole. If one of the pair moves inside the event horizon and the other of the pair stays outside the event horizon then the two can never meet to destroy each other. Overall the outside universe will gain one extra particle and the Black Hole will gain its antiparticle. Hawking showed that the energy equations for this process balanced by looking carefully at the overall energy of the Black Hole. Basically each extra particle reduces the overall energy of the Black Hole by enough to keep the universe’s energy equation balanced. Eventually all the Black Hole’s energy will be lost in this way, the Black Hole will “evaporate”.

Wikipedia is a good source for this, see their article on virtual particles.

Non-physicists might also need to look up:
Uncertainty Principle. Notice the energy-time uncertainty.
Black Hole
event horizon

rossum


#13

Don’t we - as a matter of intellectual honesty and integrity - have to admit that the Quantum physicists have us here as far as the “First Cause Argument” goes

Black hole radiation / vitural particles may or may not have a cause - but we don’t know.

The First Cause argument rests on the datum that everything we observe has a cause - but the observable phenomenon of black hole radiation (positive and negative particles spontaneously comming into existence on the event horizon of a black hole - with one of the particles diappearing into the black hole and the other particle falling on the other side of the event horizon - producing the OBSERVABLE black hole radiation as per Hawking’s prediction…

Now it may be that as our scietific understanding of this event increases we may in the future be able to point to a cause - but as things stand we surely - out of intellectual honesty - have to park the “First Cause” argument for the time being?

Perhaps we should use this as an insentive to grapple in stead with the more difficult argument from contingency - becasue although the virtual particle “creation” may lack a known or visible cause - it is difficult to see such events as “necessary”.

In otherwords - until science can resurrect the First Casue argument - until science can identify the cause of the virtual particles - we always have the contingency argument to tide us over


#14

[quote=pilchard]Don’t we - as a matter of intellectual honesty and integrity - have to admit that the Quantum physicists have us here as far as the “First Cause Argument” goes

Black hole radiation / vitural particles may or may not have a cause - but we don’t know.

The First Cause argument rests on the datum that everything we observe has a cause
[/quote]

Interesting point. But it seems to me that the First Cause argument has always been based on the assumption of everything observed has a cause. How could we ever prove that everything has a cause? – such a proof would require omniscience.

The First Cause argument only worked if one wished to assume something that is really not provable.


#15

Here’s a quandary for you. Imagine the universe as a sheet of paper. A point at the center of the sheet is the locus of the Cosmic Egg. Stars and matter are moving away from that locus, due to the Big Bang.

Now, what happens when a star reaches the edge of the paper? It can’t fall off (where would it fall to?) Instead, it continues its straight line motion on the “other side” heading back to the locus of the Cosmic Egg.

At a certain point, enough matter is at that locus to cause another Big Bang.

During the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe emerges – in a very confined space. Relativity says space is curved in the vicinity of massive bodies – and at that instant we have the mother of all massive bodies, so space is very curved.

The expanding front of the matter created by the Big Bang “pushes” the curve in front of it – producing a spatial wave. Matter just behind the front experiences a different space than matter on the front – resulting in an uneven distribution of matter in the universe (which we see all around us.)

This cycle continues to produce a very uneven universe – perhaps with several locii for Big Bangs, or places where matter can enter the universe we live in from the “other side.”

The relationship between the two sides is maintained by virtual particle pairs.


#16

Erm, actually the universe itself is expanding, so your notion of a star falling off or going onto the other side of the “paper” doesn’t really make sense. And I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that a second big bang will occur if we can get enough matter at a specific location. Maybe if we could get all the matter in the universe at a specific location then we could get another big bang. But as far as I’m aware, there isn’t really any evidence to suggest this would happen, either.


#17

[quote=pilchard]Don’t we - as a matter of intellectual honesty and integrity - have to admit that the Quantum physicists have us here as far as the “First Cause Argument” goes
[/quote]

No.

The First Cause argument is metaphysical. The virtual particle discussion is theoretical, but even we accept it as true, the mechanism has been caused. The process did not always exist. Now it does.

The argument holds true regardless. It is one of the best proofs and remains so.


#18

[quote=Mike O]No.

The First Cause argument is metaphysical. The virtual particle discussion is theoretical, but even we accept it as true, the mechanism has been caused. The process did not always exist. Now it does.

The argument holds true regardless. It is one of the best proofs and remains so.
[/quote]

Metaphysical arguments begin with data (sometimes observable - sometimes “inner data” - e.g. conscience / freewill) just as the scientific method rests on the results of experiment.

As regards your argument about virtual particles not existing and then existing - well I agree with you!! You are not talking about causality here - you are really talking about contingency. This was my point exactly. We need to park the “First Cause” argument and employ instead the argument from contingency.

Besides - the First cause argument was almost too good!!! It left no room for Faith
:slight_smile:


#19

[quote=trth_skr]… the Planck length, ~1.6 x 10-35 m.

Mark
www.veritas-catholic.blogspot.com
[/quote]

:confused: How thick is a Planck? Just a question from a p-brane. :smiley:

P.S. No pun intended.


#20

[quote=Ahimsa]Interesting point. But it seems to me that the First Cause argument has always been based on the assumption of everything observed has a cause. How could we ever prove that everything has a cause? – such a proof would require omniscience.

The First Cause argument only worked if one wished to assume something that is really not provable.
[/quote]

I disagree. The first casue argument was never based on an assumption. The only legitimate argument that can be based on an assumption is the proof by contradiction!!!

If the First Cause argument is base on an assumption then opponents of it could rightly accuse it of falling into the logical fallacy of begging the question.

Let’s assume everything is caused - oh there must be a first cause
Let’s assume everything is designed - oh there must be a designer.

The “First Cause” argument and the argument from design are legitimate precisely becasue they are not based on an assumption - but are based on observation.

EVERYTHING - prior to black hole radiation - had an OBSERVABLE cause.
Everything in the universe has design.

We don’t find out about the author by writing our own book - but by reading His


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