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Radiation reaction (but, more generally, fluctuations and dissipation) occurs when a system interacts with a heat bath, a particular case being the interaction of an electron with the radiation field. We have developed a general theory for the case of a quantum particle in a general potential (but, in more detail, an oscillator potential) coupled to an arbitrary heat bath at arbitrary temperature, and in an external time-dependent c-number field. The results may be applied to a large variety of problems in physics but we concentrate by showing in detail the application to the blackbody radiation heat bath, giving an exact result for the radiation reaction problem which has no unsatisfactory features such as the runaway solutions associated with the Abraham-Lorentz theory. In addition, we show how atomic energy and free energy shifts due to temperature may be calculated. Finally, we give a brief review of applications to Josephson junctions, quantum statistical mechanics, mesoscopic physics, quantum information, noise in gravitational wave detectors, Unruh radiation and the violation of the quantum regression theorem. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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Contemporary Physics

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