Through the wall faster than light

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Through the wall faster than light
Through the wall faster than light
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Through the wall faster than light

Quantum mechanical objects can "tunnel through" obstacles. According to recent experiments, they may even be moving faster than light.

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When quantum mechanics entered the scientific arena, physicists suddenly had to deal with many perplexing consequences of the new equations. They quickly discovered one of the strangest consequences: the so-called tunnel effect. It shows how tiny objects differ from larger ones. If you throw a ball against a wall, it bounces off. If you let it roll downhill, it stays in the valley. Different rules apply to particles such as electrons. They have a small chance of "slipping through the mountain and escaping the valley again," as Princeton University physicists Ronald Wilfred Gurney and Edward Uhler Condon put it in one of the earliest descriptions of the effect in the journal Nature. formulated in 1928.

The phenomenon is puzzling, but at the same time it solves many problems. The ability of particles to easily traverse seemingly insurmountable energy barriers explains various chemical processes, radioactive decay and the radiation from the sun, in which the nuclei of hydrogen atoms overcome their mutual repulsion and fuse with each other thanks to the tunnel effect.

On closer inspection, the scientists were initially just curious and then increasingly desperate: How long does it take for a particle to tunnel through such a wall? The answers found didn't seem to make any senseā€¦

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