Research NewsQuantum Mechanics

The Subtle Pull of Emptiness

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Science  10 Jan 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5297, pp. 158
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5297.158a

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Classical physics—and common sense—dictates that the vacuum is devoid not only of matter but also of energy. But quantum mechanics implies that the vacuum seethes with an infinite number of “virtual” photons that, like unobservable Cheshire cats, wink in and out of existence. These fleeting photons can exert a pressure known as the Casimir force, and a high-precision experiment has now measured it.