Long-Range (Casimir) Interactions

Science  07 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5267, pp. 1452-1455
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5267.1452


Normally, nonrelativistic electromagnetic theory with two-particle Coulombic interactions adequately determines the interaction potential of systems A and B if the systems are composed of particles with characteristic velocities much less than the speed of light. If, however, the time it takes light to travel between A and B exceeds a characteristic oscillation period of A or B, the way in which the potential function depends on the separation of the systems can be altered. Called the Casimir effect, it has only recently been confirmed, and it arises in physics, chemistry, and biology. It is the clearest physical manifestation of the fact that, even in a vacuum, electromagnetic fields cannot all vanish.