What are the properties of the vacuum, the absolute nothingness? So far, physicists have assumed that it is impossible to directly access the characteristics of the ground state of empty space. Now, a team of physicists led by Prof. Alfred Leitenstorfer at the University of Konstanz (Germany) has succeeded in doing just that. They demonstrated a first direct observation of the so-called vacuum fluctuations by using short light pulses while employing highly precise optical measurement techniques. The duration of their light pulses was ensured to be shorter than half a cycle of light in the spectral range investigated. According to quantum physics, these oscillations exist even in total darkness, when the intensity of light and radio waves completely disappears. These findings are of fundamental importance for the development of quantum physics and will be published in the prestigious journal Science; an advance on-line version has appeared on October 1, 2015.
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