Physicists say that even in a perfect vacuum could be friction
One of the fundamental tenets of modern physics states that in an environment ideal vacuum - space that does not contain any matter - can not exist a process such as friction, because it is completely empty space can not be affected by this power on objects that pass through it.
Despite this general consensus, physicists from the UK found that the atom decays, passing through full vacuum environment will be affected by the frictional force. Moreover, scientists have been able to figure out that this phenomenon is rather reinforces rather than refutes Einstein's general theory of relativity.
"We spent a lot of time searching for possible errors in calculations, and even more by studying other strange inconsistencies, until they found turned out to be a pretty obvious solution," - said the portal Phys.org Matthias Sonnlaytner the University of Glasgow.
In the calculations for predicting the behavior of the decaying atoms moving through a perfect vacuum, Sonnlaytner and his colleagues discovered something strange. Physicists long been known that a perfect vacuum can not exert any forces on the atoms, but still capable of specifically interact with them.
To date, scientists are not able to create the conditions for a perfect vacuum, because no level of checks is not able to provide the purity of the experiment, creating confidence in the fact that any atom not seep inside this space. However, the calculations predicted that a theoretical perfect vacuum will actually be filled with its own special energy, as well as "virtual" pairs of particle-antiparticle having the ability to suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear. This description of the ideal "empty, but empty" vacuum derives from the aspect of quantum mechanics, which is called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which says about the innumerable theoretical virtual particles appearing and disappearing in a vacuum at a random point in time. These changes create a quantum random fluctuating electric field calculations and commands from the Glasgow describe how these fields can interact with the atoms moving at this point through the vacuum space, absorbing energy and passing the excited state.
As soon as in a state of excitation of the atom will decay to a lower energy state, he will be able to emit photon (light particle) in a random direction. Researchers have calculated that when the moving atom will emit a photon in the opposite direction of its motion, then at this moment will create frictional force, which will be displayed in the form of reducing the velocity of the atom. If, in practice, this is true, then it would be contrary to the principle of relativity, since in this case it will be understood that the "observer", depending on where it will be relative to this atom will have to see an atom moving at different speeds.
Sonnlaytner said that his team "has spent weeks trying to find the right answer", and the decision came down to a surprisingly simple formula E = mc 2. Scientists realized that the atom decays at the time of his movement and the emission of a photon in a random direction at the same time will lose a small amount of energy and mass. This is the amount of mass is called the mass defect, and this value is so insignificant that never measured in this context before.
"This is the same weight in the famous equation E = mc 2 Einstein that describes the amount of energy required for the separation of the atomic nucleus into its constituent protons and neutrons. It is also called nuclear binding energy. The term is widely used in nuclear physics, which deals with large binding energies, but as a rule, is considered insignificant in atom optics, as operates on a very low energy values. "
When researchers to substitute the value of the mass defect into their calculations and used the formula E = mc 2 to solutions, they found that the loss of small mass value in the decay atom actually loses momentum and not speed.
In the relationship between friction, momentum and velocity, wherein the friction would be regarded as the result of changes in the pulse rate due to losses, scientists are considering the loss of momentum as a result of changes in atomic mass. His speed remains constant, as it should. Thus, the presence of friction in vacuo gives no relativity. In fact, such behavior is predicted by the special theory of relativity, which says that weight loss is able to induce a barely noticeable loss of momentum.
"His calculations we have shown that the atom decays really faced with a force that has similarities to friction. However, this force is represented as a change in momentum due to changes in the internal values of the mass and energy of the atom, and it is not associated with a slowdown. "
Now the researchers want to test whether this phenomenon is manifested, if the atom will absorb rather than emit a photon. And perhaps this information could be used to explain the results of another study, which is also hinted at the presence of friction in a perfect vacuum. In 2011, physicists assumed that the vacuum can really enjoy rubbing, if a large amount of it being "virtual" particles will move in the opposite direction it is in the physical object.
Prove it in the real world have not yet succeeded, but one thing is certain now: strange things sometimes happen in a complete void.