The Casimir effect and the interpretation of the vacuum

The Casimir force between two neutral metallic plates is often considered conclusive evidence for the reality of electromagnetic zero-point fluctuations in 'empty space' (i.e. in absence of any boundaries). However, it is not well known that the Casimir force can be derived from many different points of view. The purpose of this note is to supply a conceptually oriented introduction to a representative set of these different interpretations. The different accounts suggest that the Casimir effect reveals nothing conclusive about the nature of the vacuum.
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