### abstract

- Polarizable atoms interacting with a charged wire do so through an inverse-square potential, $V = - g/r^2$. This system is known to realize scale invariance in a nontrivial way and to be subject to ambiguities associated with the choice of boundary condition at the origin, often termed the problem of `fall to the center'. Point-particle effective field theory (PPEFT) provides a systematic framework for determining the boundary condition in terms of the properties of the source residing at the origin. We apply this formalism to the charged-wire/polarizable-atom problem, finding a result that is not a self-adjoint extension because of absorption of atoms by the wire. We explore the RG flow of the complex coupling constant for the dominant low-energy effective interactions, finding flows whose character is qualitatively different when $g$ is above or below a critical value, $g_c$. Unlike the self-adjoint case, (complex) fixed points exist when $g> g_c$, which we show correspond to perfect absorber (or perfect emitter) boundary conditions. We describe experimental consequences for wire-atom interactions and the possibility of observing the anomalous breaking of scale invariance.