When two like magnetic poles are brought together, there's a repulsive force felt that's inversely proportional to their separation. In the standard model, the answer to "What is transmitting this repulsive force through empty space between the two magnets?" is described as virtual photons.
If I want to measure 15 newtons of force between two north poles of adjacent magnets, I can position my magnets accordingly and measure the force directly. I'll never see photons involved because of their virtual nature, but the force they're delivering is very real, and easy to measure.
If I want to produce the same amount of force on my magnet by directly bombarding it with real photons, however, it would take an enormous amount of energy.
It seems strange to think that the same particles responsible for producing a force strong enough to keep two massive objects apart, are barely capable of moving a light sail in microgravity.
Why are real photons so much less efficient in carrying momentum than virtual photons?
I have to believe virtual particles are the topic for a sizeable portion of questions on SE; if this is a duplicate please feel free to close, but from my review I haven't seen this addressed directly.