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No, Quantum Tunneling Didn’t Break The Speed Of Light; Nothing Does

28 Mar 2019, 14:01 UTC
No, Quantum Tunneling Didn’t Break The Speed Of Light; Nothing Does AASF / GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY / CENTRE FOR QUANTUM DYNAMICS

If you throw a tennis ball at a solid wall, it will strike the wall and ricochet back at you 100% of the time, just like you’d expect. In physics, a sufficiently strong barrier will prevent any incoming object from passing through it. But at the quantum level, this isn’t strictly true. If you replace a tennis ball with a quantum particle and a solid wall with any quantum mechanical barrier, there’s a finite probability that the particle will actually tunnel through the barrier, where it winds up being detected on the other side. It’s as though you threw the tennis ball at the wall and it went right through, unimpeded by the wall at all.

Scientists have, for the first time, successfully measured how long the tunneling process takes, and found that it was instantaneous. But this doesn’t mean it happened faster than the speed of light. Nothing breaks that speed, and here’s how you can see it for yourself.

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