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Extended Essay on Virtual Particles?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    I'm planning on doing my 4000-word extended essay for International Baccalaureate on virtual particles (theoretical and particle physics really interest me). I'm starting to get quite stressed, though, as summer is half over, and we were advised to have, at the least, our research done by September, and I barely have a thesis! :cry:

    I was wondering what sort of topics would be good with particle physics. I was thinking of maybe doing a study on results from a Casimir effect experiment, but I don't want to get bored with this topic. Is there anything interesting that would be easy to write 4000 words on that I could do?

    Thank you for helping!!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2012 #2

    I myself am in an IB school but unfortunately circumstances hindered my ability to take the full IB, and along with that, the opportunity to write the extended essay (even for fun i'm not allowed!)

    Perhaps you could write about the applications of the standard model within a specific field, such as astrophysics or nuclear physics.
  4. Jul 16, 2012 #3


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    we had a lot of discussions on virtual particles here in this forum, so you should use the search function; some ideas that might be interesting:
    1) many (but not all of us ;-) think that virtual particles are nothing else but mathematical artefacts due to a specific approximation, namely perturbation theory
    2) there is an intersting paper from Jaffe which shows that there is an alternative formulation of the Casimir effect
    3) in contrast to what one often reads virtual particles do not violate energy-momentum conservation (which is exact at each vertex in a Feynman diagram); the violate the mass-shell condition m² = E² - p².
  5. Jul 16, 2012 #4

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    I would not recommend this topic.

    You don't know about virtual particles, except what writers of popularizations have said about them. That places you in a difficult position. Would you write about hockey, having never played or even watched a game, based only on what other people have written about it? Especially if most of those people haven't played or watched one either, but have perhaps talked to those who have?
  6. Jul 16, 2012 #5
    Although Junge may not be able to make independent judgements of the technical literature, they could proceed as follows: study what different physicists say about the nature of virtual particles, see if there are any contradictions or illogical statements, try to obtain a resolution of perceived problems by asking a forum like this, and just keep repeating this until time runs out. In other words, Junge may not be able to honestly say "in quantum field theory, a virtual particle is definitely the following sort of entity...", but they may be able to make an accurate report of what is said by people who should know or people who claim to know.
  7. Jul 16, 2012 #6
    Thank you for all your replies! I will look for other threads on virtual particles (I admit I forgot to before posting). I'm not sure if I can change my topic now, though, as I have already stated to my IBC that my topic is 'virtual particles.' I'm not sure how they would react with me changing so late.

    One of the EE approaches for physics is a data-based essay, which IBO describes as "location and extraction of raw or processed data, not collected directly by the student, which is then further refined and analysed." I was thinking of doing this with data from Casimir effect experiments. I will read more about it, though, as I did not know most people believed in an alternate cause. Perhaps that could be part of my essay, similar to the proposition of mitchell porter?
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