Virtual particles

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Virtual particles are a simplified explanation of spacetime's quantum field activity, most commonly used in a well-known but wrong explanation of Hawking radiation.

In a layperson's conception of reality, particles are specks of matter flying through empty space. On the other hand, quantum field theory treats space as a field with an energy level at each point. Due to the uncertainty principle, no point can ever be definitively said to have zero energy, but most hover around that level; particles are simply points where the energy is significantly above zero propagating through the quantum field. To make this model's background quantum field activity easier to comprehend, many people subscribe to a lies-to-children explanation that particle-antiparticle pairs constantly appear in space by borrowing a little energy from spacetime before immediately annihilating each other and returning that energy. This model, though widespread, is inaccurate; a more accurate analogy would be to imagine spacetime as an "ocean" where small "ripples" of near-zero energy constantly propagate through its quantum fields.[1]

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