We investigate a specific set of two-loop self-energy corrections involving squared decay rates and point out that their interpretation is highly problematic. The corrections cannot be interpreted as radiative energy shifts in the usual sense. Some of the problematic corrections find a natural interpretation as radiative nonresonant corrections to the natural line shape. They cannot uniquely be associated with one and only one atomic level. While the problematic corrections are rather tiny when expressed in units of frequency (a few hertz for hydrogenic P levels) and do not affect the reliability of quantum electrodynamics at the current level of experimental accuracy, they may be of importance for future experiments. The problems are connected with the limitations of the so-called asymptotic-state approximation, which means that atomic in- and out-states in the S-matrix are assumed to have an infinite lifetime.
U. D. Jentschura et al., "A Problematic Set of Two-Loop Self-Energy Corrections," New Journal of Physics, vol. 4, no. 49, pp. 49.1-49.11, IOP Publishing, Jul 2002.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1367-2630/4/1/349
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