Thursday, May 17, 2012

Particles Walk Through Walls While Physicists Watch

Electrons bound to an atom can sometimes
escape, even if they lack the requisite
energy, through a phenomenon known as
quantum tunneling.
CREDIT: Dreamstime
Particles Walk Through Walls While Physicists Watch - Live Science

Sometimes, particles can pass through walls.

Though it sounds like science fiction, the phenomenon is well documented and even understood under the bizarre rules that govern the microscopic world called quantum mechanics.

Now, scientists have measured the timing of this passing-through-walls trick more accurately than ever before, and report their results in today's (May 17) issue of the journal Nature.

The process is called quantum tunneling, and occurs when a particle passes through a barrier that it seemingly shouldn't be able to. In this case, scientists measured electrons escaping from atoms without having the necessary energy to do so. In the normal world around us, this would be like a child jumping into the air, and somehow clearing a whole house. [Graphic: Nature's Tiniest Particles Explained]

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