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Could the Casimir effect be due to incident light used to observe the effect during the experiments? It seems to me that the effect occurs because of the photoelectric effect because the conditions to occur require the plates be uncharged conductors and lights shining on them could cause a charge on the plates making them move closer rather than quantum vacuum fluctuations. When the EM drive turned out to be contamination by instruments and Earth’s own magnetic field it got me wondering if this effect could be explained another more classical way. For that matter the Earth’s magnetic field could be causing the effect. Is anyone aware of research done wherein the researchers accounted for and ruled out light and latent magnetism and still could observe the effect?

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The Casimir Effect and quantum vacuum fluctuations are pretty much the standard accepted theory right now, based on what evidence is available. That said, there is a paper from 2005 which suggests that the Casimir Effect might be due to Relativistic Van der Waals forces:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect#Possible_causes

However, despite that 2005 paper, there is some evidence to suggest that under certain circumstances, the vacuum energy can turn repulsive, rather than attractive:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304154928.htm

Either way, the Casimir effect is definitely not due to ambient light and the photo electric effect.

Note: This paper says van der waals forces and vacuum fluctuations are effectively the same thing:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6692354/

despite earlier papers arguing to the contrary:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.04143

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