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casimir effect

casimir effect in Science
Casimir effect
  (kāz'ə-mîr')   
The effect of a net attractive force between objects in a vacuum, caused by quantum mechanical vacuum fluctuations creating radiation pressure. The radiation can be thought of as an atmosphere of virtual particles. The amount of radiation pressure on the objects is decreased in the gap between them, due to limits on the wavelength of the radiation in the gap. The gap is thus an area of lower radiation pressure, drawing the objects toward it. This force is strong enough to be of great importance at scales encountered in nanotechnology. The Casimir effect is named after Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir (1909-2000).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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