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Monday, March 01, 2010
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
CNLS Conference Room (TA-3, Bldg 1690)

Colloquium

Casimir effect due to a single boundary as a manifestation of the Weyl problem

Eugene Kolomeisky
University of Virginia, Physics

The Casimir self-energy of a boundary is ultraviolet-divergent. In many cases the divergences can be eliminated by methods such as zeta-function regularization or through physical arguments (ultraviolet transparency of the boundary would provide a cutoff). Using the example of a massless scalar field theory with a Dirichlet boundary we explore the relationship between such approaches, with the goal of better understanding the origin of the divergences. We are guided by the insight due to Dowker and Kennedy (1978) and Deutsch and Candelas (1979), that the divergences represent measurable effects that can be interpreted with the aid of the theory of the asymptotic distribution of eigenvalues of the Laplacian first discussed by Weyl. In many cases the Casimir self-energy is the sum of cutoff-dependent (Weyl) terms having geometrical origin, and an "intrinsic" term that is independent of the cutoff. The Weyl terms make a measurable contribution to the physical situation even when regularization methods succeed in isolating the intrinsic part. Regularization methods fail when the Weyl terms and intrinsic parts of the Casimir effect cannot be clearly separated. Specifically, we demonstrate that the Casimir self-energy of a smooth boundary in two dimensions is a sum of two Weyl terms (exhibiting quadratic and logarithmic cutoff dependence), a geometrical term that is independent of cutoff, and a non-geometrical intrinsic term. As by-products we resolve the puzzle of the divergent Casimir force on a ring and correct the sign of the coefficient of linear tension of the Dirichlet line predicted in earlier treatments.

Host: Ryan Kalas