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What Are Virtual Particles?

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 Astronomy   |   Physics   |   Science
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As we’ve learned, black holes can evaporate over time thanks to the creation of virtual particles at the edge of the event horizon. Dr. Paul Matt Sutter returns to help us make sense of the science.

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Team: Fraser Cain - @fcain
Jason Harmer - @jasoncharmer
Chad Weber -

Created by: Fraser Cain and Jason Harmer
Edited by: Chad Weber
Music: Left Spine Down - “X-Ray”

Sometimes I figure out the weak spot in my videos based on the emails and comments they receive.

One popular video we did was all about Stephen Hawking’s realization that black holes must evaporate over vast periods of time. We talked about the mechanism, and mentioned how there are these virtual particles that pop in and out of existence.

Normally these particles self annihilate, but at the edge of a black hole’s event horizon, one particle falls in, while another is free to wander the cosmos. Since you can’t create particles from nothing, the black hole needs to sacrifice a little bit of itself to buy this newly formed particle’s freedom.

But my short video wasn’t enough to clarify exactly what virtual particles are. Clearly, you all wanted more information. What are they? How are they detected? What does this mean for black holes?

In situations like this, when I know the actual Physics Police are watching, I like to call in a ringer. Once again, I’m going to go back and talk to my good friend, and actual working astrophysicist, Dr. Paul Matt Sutter. He has written papers on subjects like the Bayesian Analysis of Cosmic Dawn and MHD Simulations of Magnetic Outflows. He really knows his stuff.

Hey Paul, first question: What are virtual particles?
So there you go, now I hope you understand what these virtual particles are, how they’re detected, and how they contribute to the evaporation of a black hole.

And if you haven’t already, make sure you click here and go to his channel. You’ll find dozens of videos answering equally mind-bending questions. In fact, send your questions and he might just make a video and answer them.

Does this make sense, or is there some other aspect you’d like us to discuss. Go ahead, throw your toughest questions at me, and I’ll just redirect them at Dr. Sutter.

In our next episode... I have no idea what we're going to do for our next episode. I will surprise you.

Oh, and make sure you stick around for the blooper.

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