If virtual particles can appear, can real particles disappear?

  • Thread starter jraj
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Main Question or Discussion Point

So virtual particles are allowed to exist so long as they 'give back' their energy in the time alloted by the uncertainty principle. This might be a fairly naive question, but it occurred to me that maybe the opposite is true. Can 'real' particles cease to exist for brief flashes of time without violating conservation of energy?

Is such an occurrence prohibited by any of the laws of physics?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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So virtual particles are allowed to exist so long as they 'give back' their energy in the time alloted by the uncertainty principle. This might be a fairly naive question, but it occurred to me that maybe the opposite is true. Can 'real' particles cease to exist for brief flashes of time without violating conservation of energy?
Is such an occurrence prohibited by any of the laws of physics?
Certainly. A photon splitting into a virtual particle-antiparticle pair and again being
'restored' is a common process that contributes to its propogation. You might say that it 'disappears'.
However, I don't think of 'virtual' particles more than a mere mnemonic.
 
  • #3
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It might be argued that quantum tunneling fits that description.
 
  • #4
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kinda. What happens is that a real particle transforms into an antiparticle pair, which then annihilates into energy, which then becomes a particle again.
 

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