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.
Modern developments in nonequilibrium thermodynamics have significant implications for the origins of life. The reasons for this are closely related to a generalized version of the second law of thermodynamics recently found for entropy production during irreversible evolution of a given system such as self-replicating RNA. This paper is intended to serve as an introduction to these developments.
To Appear in the Canadian Journal of Physics. DOI: 10.1139/cjp-2020-0013