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Entropy 2019, 21(2), 141; https://doi.org/10.3390/e21020141

Are Virtual Particles Less Real?

Quantum Communication and Measurement Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Division of Natural Science and Mathematics, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Received: 13 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 30 January 2019 / Published: 2 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards Ultimate Quantum Theory (UQT))
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Abstract

The question of whether virtual quantum particles exist is considered here in light of previous critical analysis and under the assumption that there are particles in the world as described by quantum field theory. The relationship of the classification of particles to quantum-field-theoretic calculations and the diagrammatic aids that are often used in them is clarified. It is pointed out that the distinction between virtual particles and others and, therefore, judgments regarding their reality have been made on basis of these methods rather than on their physical characteristics. As such, it has obscured the question of their existence. It is here argued that the most influential arguments against the existence of virtual particles but not other particles fail because they either are arguments against the existence of particles in general rather than virtual particles per se, or are dependent on the imposition of classical intuitions on quantum systems, or are simply beside the point. Several reasons are then provided for considering virtual particles real, such as their descriptive, explanatory, and predictive value, and a clearer characterization of virtuality—one in terms of intermediate states—that also applies beyond perturbation theory is provided. It is also pointed out that in the role of force mediators, they serve to preclude action-at-a-distance between interacting particles. For these reasons, it is concluded that virtual particles are as real as other quantum particles. View Full-Text
Keywords: quantum field; elementary particle; quantum; scattering; perturbation theory; ontology; virtual particle quantum field; elementary particle; quantum; scattering; perturbation theory; ontology; virtual particle
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Jaeger, G. Are Virtual Particles Less Real? Entropy 2019, 21, 141.

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