Einstein's prediction may come true: how an experiment with invisible atoms will change physics

The main obstacle to research in fundamental physics is the inability to test

advanced theories in the laboratory. However, the idea of ​​an experiment to test the hypothesis 50 years ago showed that it was only a matter of time.

What did Hawking predict?

In 1974, Stephen Hawking surprised physicists with everythingworld, stating that the extreme gravitational force at the event horizons of black holes will create virtual particles. They will emit them until they run out of energy and evaporate completely.

Before Hawking put forward his revolutionarytheory, black holes were considered ideal black objects from which no particles could escape. However, the physicist is sure that they have their own radiation. In fact, this is a quantum process of thermal radiation that black holes spontaneously emit. So the mass of black holes and their energy of rotation gradually decrease. As a result, they may disappear completely.

What is the Unruh effect?

Fulling-Davis-Unruh effect for the first timeproposed in the 1970s. This is one of the many predictions of quantum field theory. According to her, an empty vacuum does not exist. In fact, any "pocket" of space is filled with infinite vibrations of the quantum scale. If given sufficient energy, they will spontaneously "burst" into particle-antiparticle pairs, which annihilate each other almost immediately. According to the theory, any particle, be it matter or light, is simply a localized excitation of this quantum field.

What do they have in common?

The Unruh effect causes the spacearound rapidly accelerating objects seems to be filled with many virtual particles that give them a glow. Because it is closely related to Hawking radiation, in which particles spontaneously appear at the edges of black holes, scientists have long sought to detect one as a hint at the existence of the other. But it is impossible to do so. At least that's what physicists used to think.

Why is it difficult to prove them?

Similar to how to test for Hawking radiationyou need a black hole, the Unruh effect requires huge accelerations to produce a glow that can be seen. It was thought to be so weak that it could not be measured with current technology.

According to quantum theory, an immobile atom canincrease its energy only when a real photon excites one of its electrons. However, for an accelerating atom, quantum field fluctuations can "look" like real photons. From his "point of view", he will move through the accumulation of warm light particles that heat the atom. This warmth may be a clear sign of the Unruh effect.

The problem is what is the acceleration to getimpossible even at the Large Hadron Collider. An atom must accelerate to the speed of light in less than a millionth of a second, while experiencing a force of a quadrillion meters per second squared, in order to give off enough light that modern detectors will detect.

In simple words, to see this effect behinda short period of time, you just need incredible acceleration. If we use the speeds available to mankind, then we will have to wait more time than the Universe exists.

What experiment did the scientists come up with?

However, physicists figured out how to experiment withUnruh effect using high-intensity lasers. It turned out that if they act on an accelerated particle, the effect will increase so much that it can be measured. The scientists also discovered that it is possible to make accelerated matter transparent by delicately balancing the acceleration and deceleration of particles.

How will it work?

Quantum fluctuations become densethanks to photons. This means that an atom forced to move in a vacuum under the influence of high-intensity laser light can theoretically cause the Unruh effect even at fairly small accelerations. The problem is that an atom can interact with laser light at the same time, absorbing it, thus increasing its energy level. The heat generated will eventually drown out the Unruh effect.

But physicists came up with a solution - to make photonsinvisible. If an atom has to “wade” through a field of photons, then let it “not see” photons of a certain frequency, which will make them practically invisible to the atom. Eventually, by combining all these workarounds in sequence, scientists will be able to test the Unruh effect at a specific frequency of light.

What's the bottom line?

Bringing the experiment to life will not be easy.Scientists will build a laboratory particle accelerator that will accelerate an electron to the speed of light by irradiating it with a microwave beam. If they find an effect, they will conduct experiments with it that will find a connection between Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. This is one of the biggest problems in physics. In addition, by observing the Unruh effect, scientists will also confirm the correctness of Hawking about black holes.

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