When I turn up to work, I sometimes describe myself as a surface scientist. It isn’t entirely true, but a large part of my work focuses on surface physics and why things stick (or not) to surfaces. But surface physics is really messy, and all sorts of different physical effects play roles at different length and time scales. This makes it difficult to create a clear picture of where and when specific aspects of physics are important.
One particularly messy corner of this de facto teenage bedroom is the Casimir effect. The Casimir effect describes how two apparently neutral metal plates will have an electromagnetic attraction to each other if they are close together. Now, a group of physicists has used a very clever experiment to measure the Casimir effect’s little brother, the Casimir-Polder interaction. Even in this early iteration, their technique is quite sensitive, and it may be the first step toward a new kind of surface imaging technique… head over to ArsTechnica to read the rest of this article written by Chris Lee.
Illustration by Chris Wren – Kenn Brown @ mondoart.net – Originally published in Scientific American Magazine.