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In another question someone mentioned that it couldn't happen. Why not?

For example I asked about the speed an object would have to move at sea level to create a vacuum behind it; in the comments someone asked what I meant by vacuum because there couldn't be a perfect vacuum.

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  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_fluctuation $\endgroup$
    – lemon
    Jan 23, 2015 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ Can you be more specific? If you mention "another question" it's much more helpful if you include a link. $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Jan 24, 2015 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ First of all, what do you mean by perfect vacuum"? This isn't pedantic. For example, Physicists and philosophers and philosocists disagree on the concept of nothing so, as a start, define your terms. $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2015 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @alfred ok, I didnt realize. $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2015 at 1:38

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What you're describing is theoretically possible, or at least there is no contradiction inherent in its conception any more than any other "pure" quantum state is: you simply need to prepare the pure quantum state which is the zero particle number observable eigenstate for all the quantum fields (electron, photon, ...). This of course corresponds to all the quantum fields' being in their ground energy eigenstate.

Now, how to prepare this state in practice is another matter. There are both practical and theoretical difficulties. First the question of matter quantum fields. The key idea here is that regions of space only evacuate through diffusion: we don't have any magic means of calling up all the particles in a region and saying "hey guys, could you all please shift to one side of this chamber now?" You simply place the region of space you want to evacuate in contact with another region of space with a lower particle density and let particles freely diffuse back and forth between the two. We can prepare low particle densities through piston apparatus and the like, and one could imagine in theory using pistons with non return valves over many cycles to achieve a high probability of no matter particles in a region (somewhat like the old joke about homeopathic procedures diluting medicine to below single molecule in the bottle concentrations), but in practice this procedure is hard to make perfect. Some of the practical difficulties (outgassing and so forth) are talked about in the Wikipedia article "Ultra-high Vacuum". Moreover, even if you did get rid of all matter particles, then your chamber walls are at nonzero thermodynamic temperature, so now the inside of the chamber contains blackbody radiation. This you cannot get rid of unless the chamber walls are at truly absolute zero thermodynamic temperature.

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    $\begingroup$ I share the opinion that, if not explicitly stated, the concept of "vacuum" should not be extended to the concept of "QED vacuum". Maybe that distinction should be made clear. $\endgroup$
    – cinico
    Nov 16, 2015 at 13:34
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A perfect vacuum is defined as a state with no matter particles, and also no photons. This state is impossible to achieve experimentally because it is nearly impossible to remove the matter, and is impossible to eliminate all the photons. Since there is also some energy available, virtual particles can hop into and out of existence.

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  • $\begingroup$ What you're describing is theoretically possible was what WetSavannaAnimal aka Rod Vance told yet you say "is impossible to eliminate all the photons" any comments? $\endgroup$
    – Sidarth
    Feb 25, 2016 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Sidarth If you want to observe what is in the vacuum, you will need photons. Also, if you decrease the temperature to absolute zero to remove the blackbody radiation, then it becomes harder to remove the last of the volatile components. $\endgroup$
    – LDC3
    Feb 26, 2016 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ By "the last of the volatile components", are you referring to atoms from the inside of the vacuum chamber "evaporating" into the vacuum? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Nov 28, 2022 at 21:02
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A perfect vacuum would be empty space with no atoms or any particles in it. But there is no such thing because virtual particles are always popping in and out of existence. Even "empty space" is seething with virtual particles.

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    $\begingroup$ Virtual particles aren't real. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind
    Apr 8, 2015 at 12:48

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