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virtual particle

noun, Physics.
an elementary particle of transitory existence that does not appear as a free particle in a particular situation but that can transmit a force from one particle to another.
1970-75 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for virtual particle
  • Anyway, a virtual particle is defined a a particle that does not exist for long enough to be measured.
  • It even goes to the idea of something as simple as a virtual particle.
  • According to quantum mechanics, the physical vacuum is bubbling with short-lived virtual particle-antiparticle pairs.
  • In a loop, a particle decays through the fleeting existence of a heavier virtual particle.
virtual particle in Science
virtual particle  
A short-lived subatomic particle whose existence briefly violates the principle of conservation of energy. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics allows violations of conservation of energy for short periods, meaning that even a physical system with zero energy can spontaneously produce energetic particles. The more energy a virtual particle has, the shorter its existence. Interactions between normal particles and virtual particles play a crucial role in quantum field theory analyses of interactions between real particles. See also Casimir effect, Feynman diagram, vacuum fluctuation.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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