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Ephemeral Vacuum Particles Cause Fluctuations in the Speed of Light: New Way to Examine Physics

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Ephemeral vacuum particles may cause fluctuations in the speed of light, changing the way we look at physics. This image reveals a channeltron electron multiplier within a vacuum.
(image by Flickr/Daniel Parks)

Is the nature of a vacuum really fixed? Not so, according to two forthcoming papers. Researchers have identified a quantum level mechanism for interpreting a vacuum as being filled with pairs of virtual particles with fluctuating energy values. They've also discovered that physical constraints, such as the speed of light and the so-called impedance of free space, are indications of the total number of elementary particles in nature. This finding has further repercussions, though. There's the theoretical possibility that the speed of light is, in fact, not fixed. Instead, the speed could potentially fluctuate at a level that's independent of the energy of each light quantum, or photon, and that's also greater than fluctuations induced by quantum level gravity. Instead, the speed of light would depend on variations in the vacuum properties of space or time.

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