It has been argued since 1948, when it was experimentally demonstrated, that the Casimir effect— where two non-charged conducting plates have a weak but measurable force on each other dependent on the inverse fourth power of the distance between them — shows the reality of vacuum zero-point fluctuations. This “proof” of the reality of vacuum fluctuations has been repeated in many quantum field theory books and papers subsequent to 1948. The attractive force is generally ascribed to the difference in zero-point energy of the electromagnetic field between the plates and the vacuum external to them. As is well known, zero-point vacuum fluctuations are incompatible with relativistic physics and are at the root of the “cosmological constant” problem. Most texts on quantum mechanics and quantum field theory eliminate the vacuum energy by normal ordering or some other mechanism. These issues are explored in this paper and it is pointed out that a means to resolve them already exists.
QUANTUM FLUCTUATIONS, THE CASIMIR EFFECT AND THE HISTORICAL BURDEN