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Is vacuum permittivity an effect of vacuum polarization, or are these unrelated phenomena? A more detailed way to ask this might be, is the vacuum analagous to a dielectric in that electron-positron pairs arising in the vacuum weaken the strength of an electric field applied across the vacuum.?

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    $\begingroup$ "Weaken" the strength of an electric field compared to what? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ The question may need to be re-worded but it seems that it may be about vacuum polarization, which is quite a sophisticated concept and perhaps doesn't deserve to be down voted. $\endgroup$
    – jim
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ The question is whether the permittivity of free space is considered to be the result of a physical phenomenon such as the polarization of virtual particles in free space, or is it just a constant needed to make units work out in the rmks measurement system. Is the permittivity of free space considered by physicists to have a cause, and if so, is that cause yet known? $\endgroup$
    – Jim Lee
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 18:54

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The permittivity of free space is not due to vacuum fluctuations, but it is affected by vacuum fluctuations.

The classical permittivity is a fundamental constant in the sense that the speed of light is a fundamental constant, and as such it is not caused by anything nor can its value be calculated and more than the speed of light can be calculated. However the permittivity of the QFT vacuum is slightly different to the classical permittivity.

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