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Movement and Fluctuations of the Vacuum

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  • [Phys:Qphy] Physics/Quantum Physics
  • [Phys:Qphy] Physique/Physique Quantique
  • Earth Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics


Quantum fields possess zero-point or vacuum fluctuations which induce mechanical effects, namely generalised Casimir forces, on any scatterer. <BR />Symmetries of vacuum therefore raise fundamental questions when confronted with the principle of relativity of motion in vacuum. The specific case of uniformly accelerated motion is particularly interesting, in connection with the much debated question of the appearance of vacuum in accelerated frames. The choice of Rindler representation, commonly used in General Relativity, transforms vacuum fluctuations into thermal fluctuations, raising difficulties of interpretation. In contrast, the conformal representation of uniformly accelerated frames fits the symmetry properties of field propagation and quantum vacuum and thus leads to extend the principle of relativity of motion to uniform accelerations. <BR />Mirrors moving in vacuum with a non uniform acceleration are known to radiate. The associated radiation reaction force is directly connected to fluctuating forces felt by motionless mirrors through fluctuation-dissipation relations. Scatterers in vacuum undergo a quantum Brownian motion which describes irreducible quantum fluctuations. Vacuum fluctuations impose ultimate limitations on measurements of position in space-time, and thus challenge the very concept of space-time localisation within a quantum framework. <BR />For test masses greater than Planck mass, the ultimate limit in localisation is determined by gravitational vacuum fluctuations. Not only positions in space-time, but also geodesic distances, behave as quantum variables, reflecting the necessary quantum nature of an underlying geometry.

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