Ben Hubbert Comps Presentation
Monday, January 27, 2014 8:30 am
Physical Ramifications of Nonzero Vacuum Energy
Quantum mechanics states that space itself is quantized, and the energy of empty space is nonzero. This ‘vacuum energy’ has several surprising effects on matter and energy in our universe. We introduce the concept of vacuum energy and explore two of its physical implications: the Casimir effect and the Unruh effect. The Casimir effect is a result of electromagnetic fluctuations in the vacuum; these fluctuations can exert force on electrical conductors under the right conditions. The Unruh effect is still theoretical, but suggests that an observer under acceleration will detect thermal radiation due to ‘friction’ between the observer and the vacuum. This talk emphasizes the electromagnetic, optical, and thermodynamic aspects of these phenomena and the experiments used or proposed to detect them.