What is vacuum boiling?


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In the usual sense, a vacuum is a region of space from which matter has been completely or almost completely pumped out and, accordingly, nothing should be there.

But the physical vacuum is empty only on average. It turns out that virtual pairs «particle-antiparticle» are continuously born in space, live for a short time, and then annihilate. Their lifetime is limited by Heisenberg’s uncertainty, due to which they do not violate the law of conservation of energy.

Under normal conditions, such virtual particles do not interact with other particles and do not affect what is happening in the world in any way, and then disappear without a trace, but under certain conditions, in the presence of external high-energy fields, these particles may not annihilate, but turn into real particles.

This process of creation and annihilation of virtual pairs of particles is called vacuum boiling, it occurs at any point in space at any time, but it is easiest to fix it in the absence of matter.

When an electron moves through a vacuum, it interacts with electrons (particle) and positrons (antiparticle) generated by quantum fluctuations before they can annihilate. These interactions lead to the polarization of the electric charge of the electron — a purely quantum effect that has no analogues in classical physics.

Since the electron has a negative charge, it is surrounded by a cloud of positive charges. This leads to screening of the electric charge of the electron and its real charge will be less than the charge of the original electron.

In quantum electrodynamics, corrections to changes in the charge of an electron or a positron can be calculated quite simply, and the results of the calculations converge with the results of measurements of the real charge of particles with great accuracy.