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The Photonics Spotlight

Light = Electromagnetic Waves?

Posted on 2007-08-15 as a part of the Photonics Spotlight (available as e-mail newsletter!)

Permanent link: https://www.rp-photonics.com/spotlight_2007_08_15.html

Author: Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta, RP Photonics Consulting GmbH

Abstract: The article recalls that as soon as light is propagating in some medium, we have much more than just electric and magnetic fields interacting with each other. So it is not correct to simply view light as an electromagnetic phenomenon.

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Ref.: encyclopedia articles on polarization waves, nonlinear polarization

It is very commonly assumed that light is physically nothing else than electromagnetic waves. One then easily overlooks a wide range of essential phenomena which are also involved in many cases of light propagation. This occurs as soon as light enters some medium:

So we see that only light in vacuum can be fully described as an electromagnetic wave, while there is much more to be explored for light propagating in media.

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page and cite it, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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