Sheffield Café Scientifique

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'What lies beneath the void' 13 May 2013

The concept of 'empty' space has been a troubling one since ancient times. It is clear since the development of quantum mechanics that space is far from empty and has an intrinsic 'zero point energy' of unimaginable magnitude that we have no way of detecting directly. However the zero point energy does manifest itself in subtle ways that can be measured, for example the Casimir force and is also somehow related to dark matter and dark energy. Some of the modern tools of nanotechnology can detect the Casimir force with great accuracy and we have started to learn how to manipulate the force. The talk will present the background to zero point energy and how the Casimir force may one day be used in nanomachines.