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An addendum to the Heisenberg-Euler effective action beyond one loop. (English) Zbl 1377.83032
Summary: We study the effective interactions of external electromagnetic fields induced by fluctuations of virtual particles in the vacuum of quantum electrodynamics. Our main focus is on these interactions at two-loop order. We discuss in detail the emergence of the renowned Heisenberg-Euler effective action from the underlying microscopic theory of quantum electrodynamics, emphasizing its distinction from a standard one-particle irre-ducible effective action. In our explicit calculations we limit ourselves to constant and slowly varying external fields, allowing us to adopt a locally constant field approximation. One of our main findings is that at two-loop order there is a finite one-particle reducible contribution to the Heisenberg-Euler effective action in constant fields, which was previously assumed to vanish. In addition to their conceptual significance, our results are relevant for high-precision probes of quantum vacuum nonlinearity in strong electromagnetic fields.

MSC:
83C50 Electromagnetic fields in general relativity and gravitational theory
81V10 Electromagnetic interaction; quantum electrodynamics
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