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Keywords:

  • Quantum fluctuations;
  • Vacuum stress tensors;
  • Spacetime curvatures;
  • Ultimate sensitivity limits

Abstract

We analyze the quantum fluctuations of vacuum stress tensors and spacetime curvatures, using the framework of linear response theory which connects these fluctuations to dissipation mechanisms arising when stress tensors and spacetime metric are coupled. Vacuum fluctuations of spacetime curvatures are shown to be a sum of two contributions at lowest orders; the first one corresponds to vacuum gravitational waves and is restricted to light-like wavevectors and vanishing Einstein curvature, while the second one arises from gravity of vacuum stress tensors. From these fluctuations, we deduce noise spectra for geodesic deviations registered by probe fields which determine ultimate limits in length or time measurements. In particular, a relation between noise spectra characterizing spacetime fluctuations and the number of massless neutrino fields is obtained.