Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1307.6083 (William M. R. Simpson)

Ontological aspects of the Casimir Effect    [PDF]

William M. R. Simpson
The role of the vacuum, in the Casimir Effect, is a matter of some dispute: the Casimir force has been variously described as a phenomenon resulting "from the alteration, by the boundaries, of the zero-point electromagnetic energy", or a "Van der Waals force between the metal plates" that can be "computed without reference to zero point energies". Neither of these descriptions are grounded in a consistently quantum mechanical treatment of matter interacting with the electromagnetic field. However, the Casimir Effect has been canonically described within the framework of macroscopic quantum electrodynamics. On this account, the force is seen to arise due to the coupling of fluctuating currents to the zero-point radiation, and it is in this restricted sense that the phenomenon requires the existence of zero-point fields. The conflicting descriptions of the Casimir Effect, on the other hand, appear to arise from inadequate ontologies in which an unwarranted metaphysical priority is assigned either to the matter or the fields. Such ontological errors may have a direct bearing on the problem of the cosmological constant and the correct prediction of the Casimir force in a state of thermal equilibrium.
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