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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use virtual particle in a sentence
In particle physics, virtual particles are ones that appear only for brief instants and don’t carry their normal masses.Colliding photons were spotted making matter. But are the photons ‘real’? | Emily Conover | August 9, 2021 | Science News
But, if experiment and theory don’t match, our understanding of the soup of virtual particles may be incomplete.Scientists Found Hints of New Particles or Forces of Nature, and It Could Change Physics | Themis Bowcock | April 9, 2021 | Singularity Hub
We talk about virtual particles, all this stuff — but it doesn’t go click, click, click in anyone’s detector.
When researchers compute the weights, they see that scenarios with the longest-lasting virtual particles — that is, cases in which the particles become essentially real — shape the outcome the most.The Mathematical Structure of Particle Collisions Comes Into View | Charlie Wood | August 20, 2020 | Quanta Magazine
Scientific definitions for 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.