QED2012 – QED & Quantum Vacuum, Low Energy Frontier

Institut d'Etudes Scientifiques de Cargèse, Corsica, France
16-27 April 2012

The school on "QED and Quantum Vacuum, low energy frontier" has followed previous QED workshops concerning quantum vacuum, held in Italy in 1993, Bulgaria in 1998, Italy in 2000 and finally in Les Houches, France in 2005.

Quantum vacuum fluctuations are a fundamental prediction of Quantum Mechanics. They have well known effects like the Lamb shift in atomic hydrogen, but they pose serious problems at the interface between Quantum Physics and Gravitation, as the vacuum energy density predicted by theory is much larger than what can be deduced from astrophysical observations. This problem justifies the great interest and attention which is nowadays paid to various manifestations of quantum vacuum fluctuations on different energy and length scales.

Another important effect of quantum vacuum is vacuum birefringence. This fundamental property is likely to be observed for the first time in the very near future. Novel experiments are developed in Europe and Asia. More generally, new very powerful laser sources which are under development like ELI or HiPER will test QED, but also give insights for quantum field theories in general. Furthermore, astrophysical observations of highly magnetised stars will probably also detect QED effects in a near future.

On the microscopic level, the physics of exotic atoms such as muonic hydrogen and QED in molecules have been an active research area for years but has recently attracted special attention. In particular, high precision measurements of the Lamb shift, currently in progress at PSI, is expected to improve the accuracy of the proton radius measurement by an order of magnitude. Finally, the Large Hadron Collider will set soon a new landmark at the high-energy frontier of physics. However, there is also evidence for fundamental physics at the subeV scale. In particular, the vacuum energy density of the universe, as inferred from cosmological observations, points to the sub-eV range. As a matter of fact, many of the extensions of the Standard Model predict WISPs (very Weakly Interacting Sub-eV Particles). TeV colliders are not the best means to search for WISPs. For this purpose, low energy experiments exploiting lasers, microwave cavities, strong electromagnetic fields, torsion balances etc. seem to be superior. More generally, an increasing attention is paid to the low energy frontier of physics. Several experiments have been performed to test Lorentz and CPT invariance or to search for an electron dipole moment (EDM) both indication of physics beyond the standard model.

The purpose of this school was to give the opportunity to young physicists to progress with a deeper understanding of this very promising field of fundamental physics.

Scientific Editors

Rémy Battesti, Alain Blanchard, Arnaud Dupays, Mathilde Fouché and Carlo Rizzo

Organizing Committee

Rémy Battesti, Alain Blanchard, Arnaud Dupays, Mathilde Fouché and Carlo Rizzo

Scientific Committee

Dimitar Bakalov (Bulgaria), François Biraben (France), Astrid Lambrecht (France), Geert Rikken (France), Andreas Ringwald (Germany), Stephan Schiller (Germany), Eberhard Widmann (Austria)