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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Vol. 21, Iss. 12 — Dec. 1, 2004
  • pp: 2414–2417

A law of interference of electromagnetic beams of any state of coherence and polarization and the Fresnel–Arago interference laws

Mircea Mujat, Aristide Dogariu, and Emil Wolf  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 21, Issue 12, pp. 2414-2417 (2004)

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A new general interference law is derived for the superposition of two random electromagnetic beams of any state of coherence and of any state of polarization when the beams are transmitted through polarizers and rotators. It includes, as special cases, a variety of interference laws that apply to particular situations. Some of them have a close bearing on the classic interference experiments of Fresnel and Arago that have played a basic role in elucidating the concept of polarization of light.

© 2004 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(030.1640) Coherence and statistical optics : Coherence
(260.2110) Physical optics : Electromagnetic optics
(260.3160) Physical optics : Interference
(260.5430) Physical optics : Polarization

Original Manuscript: May 7, 2004
Revised Manuscript: July 7, 2004
Manuscript Accepted: July 7, 2004
Published: December 1, 2004

Mircea Mujat, Aristide Dogariu, and Emil Wolf, "A law of interference of electromagnetic beams of any state of coherence and polarization and the Fresnel–Arago interference laws," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 21, 2414-2417 (2004)

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  1. D. F. J. Arago, A. J. Fresnel, “On the action of rays of polarized light upon each other,” Ann. Chimie Physique, 288 (1819).
  2. English translation of Ref. 1is published in The Wave Theory of Light. Memories of Huygens, Young and Fresnel, H. Crew, ed. (American Book Co., New York, 1900), pp. 145–157.
  3. An excellent account of the historical background relating to Young’s explanation of the Fresnel–Arago experiments is given in E. Whittaker, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity: The Classical Theories, rev. enlarged ed. (Nelson, London, 1951).
  4. R. Hanau, “Interference of linearly polarized light with perpendicular polarizations,” Am. J. Phys. 31, 303–304 (1963). [CrossRef]
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  7. C. Brosseau, Fundamentals of Polarized Light, A Statistical Optics Approach (Wiley, New York, 1998).
  8. R. Barakat, “Analytic proofs of the Arago–Fresnel laws for the interference of polarized light,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 10, 180–185 (1993). [CrossRef]
  9. M. Henry, “Fresnel–Arago laws for interference in polarized light: a demonstration experiment,” Am. J. Phys. 49, 690–691 (1981). [CrossRef]
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  11. E. Wolf, “Unified theory of coherence and polarization of random electromagnetic beams,” Phys. Lett. A 312, 263–267 (2003). [CrossRef]
  12. E. Wolf, “Correlation-induced changes in the degree of polarization, the degree of coherence, and the spectrum of random electromagnetic beams on propagation,” Opt. Lett. 28, 1078–1080 (2003). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  13. H. Roychowdhury, E. Wolf, “Determination of the electric cross-spectral density matrix of a random electromagnetic beam,” Opt. Commun. 226, 57–60 (2003). [CrossRef]
  14. L. Mandel, E. Wolf, Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics (Cambridge U. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1999).
  15. Since only the difference between the angles of rotation introduced by the rotators is relevant, we could employ only one rotator placed behind one of the pinholes. However, introduction of two rotators, one behind each pinhole, makes the analysis more symmetric.
  16. G. Parrent, P. Roman, “On the matrix formulation of the theory of partial polarization in terms of observables,” Nuovo Cimento 10, 370–388 (1960). [CrossRef]
  17. E. L. O’Neill, Introduction to Statistical Optics (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., 1963).

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