Different properties of partially polarized light are discussed using the Kullback relative entropy, which provides a physically meaningful measure of proximity between probability density functions (PDFs). For optical waves with a Gaussian PDF, the standard degree of polarization is a simple function of the Kullback relative entropy between the considered optical light and a totally depolarized light of the same intensity. It is shown that the Kullback relative entropies between different PDFs allow one to define other properties such as a degree of anisotropy and a degree of non-Gaussianity. It is also demonstrated that, in dimension three, the Kullback relative entropy between a partially polarized light and a totally depolarized light can lead to natural definitions of two degrees of polarization needed to characterize the polarization state. These analyses enlighten the physical meaning of partial polarization of light waves in terms of a measure of disorder provided by the Shannon entropy.
© 2006 Optical Society of America
(030.0030) Coherence and statistical optics : Coherence and statistical optics
(030.4280) Coherence and statistical optics : Noise in imaging systems
(260.5430) Physical optics : Polarization
Original Manuscript: April 8, 2005
Manuscript Accepted: May 10, 2005
Philippe Réfrégier and François Goudail, "Kullback relative entropy and characterization of partially polarized optical waves," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 23, 671-678 (2006)