Prominent physicist Jacob D. Bekenstein, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has proposed a simple experiment in a paper he's uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, that he says could be used to measure quantum foam. Instead of looking to ever faster particle accelerators, he proposes using an ordinary block of glass, a laser and a detector.

Quantum foam is a term used to describe the non-smooth nature of the universe. It was coined by John Wheeler who in the 1960's noted that according to quantum mechanics, certain properties of spacetime have some degree of uncertainty related to them. Later researchers have expanded on the idea, suggesting that on a quantum scale, the universe is made up of individual units which are thought to be rife with very small black holes that pop in and out of existence, resulting in foam-like images for those who try to imagine what it might look like.

Until now, trying to measure, or prove that theories about quantum foam are true have failed due to the extraordinarily small scale of the particles involved, 1.6 × 10^-35, known as the Planck length. In his paper, Bekenstein proposes an entirely new way to approach the problem. He says all that needs to be done is to fire a single photon through a block of glass and then measure how much the block moves.

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