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Basic Optics: Principles and Concepts

Basic Optics: Principles and Concepts

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Basic Optics: Principles and Concepts

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Aug 29, 2016


Basic Optics: Principles and Concepts addresses in great detail the basic principles of the science of optics, and their related concepts. The book provides a lucid and coherent presentation of an extensive range of concepts from the field of optics, which is of central relevance to several broad areas of science, including physics, chemistry, and biology.

With its extensive range of discourse, the book’s content arms scientists and students with knowledge of the essential concepts of classical and modern optics. It can be used as a reference book and also as a supplementary text by students at college and university levels and will, at the same time, be of considerable use to researchers and teachers.

The book is composed of nine chapters and includes a great deal of material not covered in many of the more well-known textbooks on the subject. The science of optics has undergone major changes in the last fifty years because of developments in the areas of the optics of metamaterials, Fourier optics, statistical optics, quantum optics, and nonlinear optics, all of which find their place in this book, with a clear presentation of their basic principles. Even the more traditional areas of ray optics and wave optics are elaborated within the framework of electromagnetic theory, at a level more fundamental than what one finds in many of the currently available textbooks. Thus, the eikonal approximation leading to ray optics, the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of ray optics, the quantum theoretic interpretation of interference, the vector and dyadic diffraction theories, the geometrical theory of diffraction, and similar other topics of basic relevance are presented in clear terms.

The presentation is lucid and elegant, capturing the essential magic and charm of physics.

All this taken together makes the book a unique text, of major contemporary relevance, in the field of optics.

Avijit Lahiri is a well-known researcher, teacher, and author, with publications in several areas of physics, and with a broad range of current interests, including physics and the philosophy of science.

  • Provides extensive and thoroughly exhaustive coverage of classical and modern optics
  • Offers a lucid presentation in understandable language, rendering the abstract and difficult concepts of physics in an easy, accessible way
  • Develops all concepts from elementary levels to advanced stages
  • Includes a sequential description of all needed mathematical tools
  • Relates fundamental concepts to areas of current research interest
Lançado em:
Aug 29, 2016

Sobre o autor

Professor Avijit Lahiri obtained his Ph.D. from Calcutta University in 1975. He was engaged in teaching physics and research over a long period of 36 years. He published work in several areas of theoretical physics in international peer reviewed journals, including those published by Elsevier. He lectured widely on numerous topics in physics and mathematics, both to a general audience and to specialists. For the last fifteen years he devoted himself to book writing and authored five books.

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Basic Optics - Avijit Lahiri

Basic Optics

Principles and Concepts

First Edition

Avijit Lahiri

Table of Contents

Cover image

Title page




Chapter 1: Electromagnetic Theory and Optics


1.1 Introduction

1.2 Maxwell’s Equations in Material Media and in Free Space

1.3 Digression: Vector Differential Operators

1.4 Electromagnetic Potentials

1.5 The Hertz Vector Representation

1.6 The Principle of Superposition

1.7 The Complex Representation

1.8 Energy Density and Energy Flux

1.9 Optical Fields: An Overview

1.10 The Uniqueness Theorem

1.11 Simple Solutions to Maxwell’s Equations

1.12 The Monochromatic Plane Wave

1.13 States of Polarization of a Plane Wave

1.14 Reflection and Refraction at a Planar Interface

1.15 Total Internal Reflection

1.16 Plane Waves: Significance in Electromagnetic Theory and Optics

1.17 Electromagnetic Waves in Dispersive Media

1.18 Stationary Waves

1.19 Spherical Waves

1.20 Cylindrical Waves

1.21 Wave Propagation in Anisotropic Media

1.22 Wave Propagation in Metamaterials

1.23 Coherent and Incoherent Waves

Chapter 2: Foundations of Ray Optics


2.1 Introduction

2.2 The Eikonal Approximation

2.3 Characterizing the Ray Paths: Fermat’s Principle

2.4 Geometrical Optics: The Luneburg-Kline Approach

2.5 Principles of Ray Optics: An Overview

Chapter 3: Ray Optics: Optical Systems and Optical Imaging


3.1 Introduction

3.2 Gaussian Optics

3.3 Gaussian Optics: Examples

3.4 Nonsymmetric Systems: Linear Optics

3.5 Hamiltonian Optics: Introduction to Characteristic Functions

3.6 Image Formation by an Optical System

3.7 Aberrations in Imaging Systems

3.8 Optical Instruments

Chapter 4: Interference


4.1 Interference: The Basic Idea

4.2 An Interference Setup: The Double Slit

4.3 Michelson’s Interferometer With a Monochromatic Plane Wave

4.4 Coherence Characteristics, States of Polarization, and Interference Patterns

4.5 The Use of Scalar Waves and Ray Paths in Interference

4.6 Interference by Division of the Wavefront

4.7 Interference by Division of Amplitude

4.8 The Stellar Interferometer

4.9 Multiple Beam Interference

4.10 Applications of Interferometers

4.11 Interference as a Quantum Phenomenon

Chapter 5: Diffraction and Scattering


5.1 Introduction

5.2 Diffraction Theory: The Basics

5.3 Diffraction of Scalar Waves

5.4 Wave Propagation and Diffraction: The Angular Spectrum Representation

5.5 Diffraction of Electromagnetic Waves: Vector Kirchhoff Theory

5.6 Dyadic Green’s Functions in the Diffraction of Electromagnetic Waves

5.7 The Smythe Formula

5.8 Babinet’s Principle

5.9 Diffraction by a Straight Edge: The Exact Solution

5.10 The Slit Problem

5.11 The Circular Aperture

5.12 The Geometrical Theory of Diffraction (GTD)

5.13 Diffraction Theory: A Brief Overview

5.14 Diffraction Theory of Aberrations

5.15 Diffraction With Partially Coherent Radiation

5.16 Scattering in Electromagnetic Theory and Optics: An Introduction

Chapter 6: Fourier Optics


6.1 Introduction

6.2 Fundamentals of Fourier Transformation

6.3 Fresnel Propagation

6.4 Phase Transformation by a Thin Lens: Lens as a Fourier Transformer

6.5 The Operators

6.6 Image Formation by a Thin Positive Lens With Coherent Light

6.7 Frequency Analysis of Optical Imaging

6.8 Fourier Optics: Applications

6.9 Digression: Holography

Chapter 7: Optical Coherence: Statistical Optics


7.1 Introduction: Statistical Features of Electromagnetic Fields

7.2 Microscopic Features of an Optical Source: Stochastic Processes

7.3 Joint Probability Distributions and Ensemble Averages: The Autocorrelation Function

7.4 Stationary and Wide-Sense Stationary Processes

7.5 Cross Correlation Between Two Real Random Processes

7.6 Complex Random Processes

7.7 Power Spectrum of a Real Random Process

7.8 The Cross-Spectral Density of Two Real Processes

7.9 The Analytic Signal

7.10 Gaussian Random Processes

7.11 Statistical Characteristics of Optical Signals: Introduction

7.12 Intensity Fluctuations at a Point

7.13 Partially Polarized Light: States of Polarization and Intensity Fluctuations

7.14 First-Order Coherence Effects

7.15 Propagation of Mutual Coherence

7.16 Van Cittert-Zernike Theorem

7.17 First-Order Coherence in Stellar Interferometry

7.18 Image Formation With Partially Coherent Light

7.19 Photocounting: The Semiclassical Approach

7.20 Intensity Correlations

Chapter 8: Quantum Optics


8.1 Introduction: The Classical and the Quantum

8.2 The Classical Description of Systems

8.3 The Quantum Description

8.4 The Harmonic Oscillator

8.5 The Free Electromagnetic Field in a Box: Classical Description

8.6 Quantization of the Electromagnetic Field

8.7 States of the Electromagnetic Field

8.8 Statistical Features of Observables

8.9 The Continuous-Mode Description

8.10 The P-Representation of an Optical Field

8.11 Field Transformation by Optical Devices

8.12 Atom-Field Interaction

8.13 The Laser: Principles of Operation

8.14 Quantum Theory of Photocounting

8.15 Quantum Correlation Functions

8.16 First-Order Coherence

8.17 Second-Order Coherence

8.18 Two-Photon Interference

8.19 Homodyne Detection

8.20 Cavity Quantum Electrodynamics

8.21 Quantum Optics and Quantum Information

Chapter 9: Nonlinear Optics


9.1 Introduction

9.2 The Basic Equations

9.3 Nonlinear Optical Processes: Schematic Description

9.4 The Theoretical Calculation of Susceptibilities

9.5 The Wave Equation in a Nonlinear Medium

9.6 Second-Order Processes

9.7 Third-Order Processes

9.8 The Quantized Field in a Nonlinear Medium


Note for Bibliography




Radarweg 29, PO Box 211, 1000 AE Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford OX5 1GB, United Kingdom

50 Hampshire Street, 5th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139, United States

Copyright © 2016 Avijit Lahiri. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Details on how to seek permission, further information about the Publisher’s permissions policies and our arrangements with organizations such as the Copyright Clearance Center and the Copyright Licensing Agency, can be found at our website: www.elsevier.com/permissions.

This book and the individual contributions contained in it are protected under copyright by the Publisher (other than as may be noted herein).


Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience broaden our understanding, changes in research methods, professional practices, or medical treatment may become necessary.

Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility.

To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-0-12-805357-7

For information on all Elsevier publications visit our website at https://www.elsevier.com/

Publisher: John Fedor

Acquisition Editor: Anita Koch

Editorial Project Manager: Sarah Jane Watson

Production Project Manager: Mohanapriyan Rajendran

Cover designed by Indrajit Lahiri and Purba Mukherjee

Typeset by SPi Global, India


I dedicate this book to the memory of Jogendra Nath Maitra and Bijali Bhusan Lahiri —two great men in my life whom I deeply miss.


I acknowledge a heartful of thanks to my wife Anita, to my daughter Anindita, and to my son Indrajit. Purba, you deserve special thanks.

Parikshit Manna created all the figures in this book for me, and his fine efforts are here for all to see.

Sankhasubhra Nag never refused to be by my side whenever I needed him, and his help and support permeate this book.

Little Aditya, you have been a constant source of love and joy. At the age of three, you have been wise enough to mercilessly pen through most of my notes. Your criticism did me a world of good.

Rajkumar Moitra, Brahmananda Dasgupta, Ranjan Bhattacharya, and Debashis Mukherjee—this book would not have seen the light of day but for your unqualified support. Thanks.

My mother Sovana Lahiri has forever been a fountain of inspiration. As I write these few lines, with the book almost ready to go to press, she, all of a sudden, is no more. Never knew how to thank her.

Kolkata, July 2016.

Chapter 1

Electromagnetic Theory and Optics


Maxwell’s equations constitute the basis of optics and electromagnetic theory, where these equations may be considered from the classical or the quantum point of view. Basic ideas and relations in the classical electromagnetic theory are briefly reviewed in this chapter. Important features of the monochromatic plane wave are indicated, including reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection at a planar interface. Features of plane wave propagation in dispersive dielectrics and conducting media are outlined. The relation between group velocity, velocity of energy propagation, and signal velocity is elucidated, referring to Sommerfeld’s and Brillouin’s work. It is briefly explained why a superluminal group velocity does not imply a violation of causality. Spherical and cylindrical wave solutions of Maxwell’s equations are introduced. Features of plane wave propagation in anisotropic media are discussed. Wave propagation in artificially engineered metamaterials is explained in outline. Basic concepts relating to coherence and states of polarization of electromagnetic waves are introduced.


Optics and electromagnetic theory; Plane waves; Reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection; Fresnel formulae; Dispersion in dielectrics; Plane waves in conductors; Phase velocity, group velocity, and velocity of energy propagation; Superluminal group velocity and signal velocity; Wave propagation in anisotropic media; Uniaxial and biaxial media; Double refraction; Negative refractive index and metamaterials; Optical cloaking; Coherent and incoherent waves

1.1 Introduction

Optical phenomena are of an immense diversity. Yet, amazingly, the explanation of all of those can be traced back to a very few basic principles. This is not to say that, once these basic principles are known, one can arrive at a precise explanation of each and every optical phenomenon or at a precise solution for each and every problem in optics. In reality, optical phenomena can be grouped into classes where each class of phenomena has certain characteristic features in common, and an adequate explanation of each class of phenomena is a challenge in itself, requiring appropriate approximation schemes. But whatever approximations one has to make, these will be found to involve no principles more fundamental than, or independent of, the basic ones.

What, then, are these basic principles of optics? As far as present-day knowledge goes, the most basic principle underlying the explanation of optical phenomena, as indeed of all physical phenomena, is to be found in quantum theory. However, a more useful and concrete way of putting things would be to say that the theoretical basis of optics is provided by electromagnetic theory, which, in turn, is based entirely on Maxwell’s equations.

The question then arises as to whether Maxwell’s equations and electromagnetic theory are to be considered from the point of view of classical physics or of quantum theory.

Of course, one knows that these two points of view are not independent of each other. In a sense, classical explanations are approximations to the more complete, quantum theoretic descriptions. But once again these approximations are, in a sense, necessary ingredients in the explanation of a large body of observed phenomena. In other words, while a great deal is known about the way classical physics is related to quantum theory and while it can be stated that the latter is a more fundamental theory of nature, it still makes sense to say that the classical and the quantum theories are two ways of describing and explaining observed phenomena, valid in their own respective realms, where the former relates to the latter in a certain limiting sense.

This has bearing on the question I posed above, the answer to which one may state as follows: While the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field provides the ultimate basis of optics, an adequate explanation of a large body of optical phenomena can be arrived at from the classical electromagnetic theory without overt reference to the quantum theory. There do remain, however, optical phenomena that cannot be adequately explained without invoking quantum principles.

Optical phenomena are related to the behavior of electromagnetic fields where the typical frequencies of variation of the field components lie within a certain range constituting the spectrum of visible light, though the theoretical methods and principles of optics are relevant even beyond this range.

With this in mind, I propose in this book to look at the principles and basic concepts of optics, starting from the classical electromagnetic theory. At the same time, I propose to look at quantum optics as well, where optical phenomena are linked to the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field. In the process we will be rewarded with a broad overview of the fascinating subject of optics.

The approach of explaining optical phenomena on the basis of classical electromagnetic theory is sometimes referred to as ‘classical optics’ so as to distinguish it from quantum optics. But the term ‘classical optics’ is more commonly used now to refer to a certain traditional way of looking at optics and to distinguish this approach from what is known as ‘modern optics.’ The latter includes areas such as Fourier optics, statistical optics, nonlinear optics, and, above all, quantum optics. Not all of these involve quantum theory, some being mostly based on classical electromagnetic theory alone. Thus the term ‘classical optics’ has two meanings attached to it—one in the sense of a certain traditional approach in optics, and the other in the sense of an approach based on the classical electromagnetic theory.

Classical electromagnetic theory is a subject of vast dimensions. There is no way I can even sketchily summarize here the principal results of this theory. Instead, I will simply start from Maxwell’s equations, which constitute the foundations of the theory, and then state a number of basic results of relevance in optics. Fortunately, for most of classical optics one need not delve deeper into electromagnetic theory. I will not present derivations of the results of electromagnetic theory we will need in this book, for which you will have to refer to standard texts on the subject.

1.2 Maxwell’s Equations in Material Media and in Free Space

1.2.1 Electromagnetic Field Variables

The basic idea underlying electromagnetic theory is that space is permeated with electric and magnetic fields whose spatial and temporal variations are coupled to one another and are related to source densities (ie, distributions of charges and currents).

The electromagnetic field, moreover, is a dynamical system in itself, endowed with energy, momentum, and angular momentum, and capable of exchanging these with bodies carrying charge and current. The variations of the electric and magnetic field intensities are described by a set of partial differential equations—the Maxwell equations (commonly referred to as the field equations in the context of electromagnetic theory). As I have already mentioned, the behavior of the electromagnetic field as a dynamical system can be described from either the classical or the quantum theoretic point of view. The quantum point of view is subtler than the classical one, and we will have a taste of it when I talk of quantum optics later in this book.

Maxwell’s equations for a material medium involve four electromagnetic field variables—namely, the electric field intensity (E), electric displacement (D), magnetic field intensity or flux density (B), and magnetic field strength (H)—each of these being functions of space and time variables r and t. Not all of these field variables are independent since the electric vectors D and E are related to each other through a set of constitutive equations relating to the material properties of the medium. Similarly, the magnetic variables H and B are related through another set of constitutive equations. Digression: The naming of the field variables

The field vectors do not have universally accepted names attached to them. Thus E is referred to variously as the ‘electric field strength,’ the ‘electric field intensity’ (or ‘electric intensity,’ in brief), or simply, the ‘electric vector.’ A greater degree of nonuniformity affects the naming of B and H. The former is often referred to as the ‘magnetic flux density’ or the ‘magnetic induction,’ while the latter is commonly described as the ‘magnetic field strength.’ In this book I will mostly refer to E and H as the ‘electric field strength’ and the ‘magnetic field strength,’ respectively, while, at times, using the term ‘intensity’ in the place of ‘field strength’ (the term ‘magnetic intensity’ will more commonly be used to denote the vector B). The term ‘intensity’ has another use in electromagnetic theory—namely, in describing the rate of flow of electromagnetic field energy per unit area oriented perpendicularly to the direction of energy flow. However, it will always be possible to distinguish our use of the term ‘intensity’ in connection with the field variables E and B from this other usage of the term by reference to the context. At times the terms ‘electric field vector’ and ‘magnetic field vector’ will be used to denote the vectors E and H, respectively. The vector D will be named the ‘electric displacement,’ which, to a greater degree, is a commonly accepted name in the literature.

Nonspecific terms such as ‘field vectors’ and ‘field variables’ are sometimes used to describe one or more of the vectors named above, or some of their components, especially when some common features of these vectors are being referred to. Once again the meaning will have to be read from the context. Digression: The naming of the field variables and their space-time variations in optics

Finally, in optics, certain characteristic features of the space-time variations of the field vectors or their components are often referred to by terms such as ‘optical field,’ ‘optical disturbance,’ and ‘optical signal.’ Thus the time variation of any of the field components at a point or at various points in a given region of space is said to constitute an optical disturbance in that region. The time variation of the field variables at any given point in space is at times referred to as the optical signal at that point, and one can then talk of the propagation of the optical signal from point to point, especially in the context of information being carried by the time variation of the field variables.

In optics it often suffices to consider the variations of a scalar variable rather than those of the field vectors, where the scalar variable may stand for any of the components of a field vector, or even for a surrogate variable simulating the variations of the field vectors. For instance, such a scalar variable may be invoked to explain the variation of intensity at various points in some given region of space, where a more detailed description in terms of the field vectors themselves may involve unnecessary complexities without any added benefits in terms of conceptual clarity.

Such scalar fields will prove to be useful in explaining interference and diffraction phenomena, in Fourier optics, and in describing a number of coherence characteristics of optical disturbances. The space-time variations of such a scalar variable are also referred to as an ‘optical disturbance’ or an ‘optical signal,’ and the scalar variable itself is commonly termed a ‘field variable.’ A vector or scalar field variable (identified from the context) will also be termed a wave function since such a variable commonly satisfies a wave equation as in acoustics.

Incidentally, the temporal variation of a wave function at any given point in space is referred to as its waveform at that point. It is often useful to think of a waveform as a graph of the wave function plotted against time.

1.2.2 Maxwell’s Equations

Maxwell’s equations—four in number—relate the space-time dependence of the field variables to the source distributions—namely, the charge density function ρ(r, t) and the current density function j(r, t):

   (1.1a) (1.1b) (1.1c) (1.1d)

Eqs. (1.1a) and (1.1d) are consistent with the equation of continuity,


This equation constitutes the mathematical statement of the principle of conservation of charge.

In the above equations, ρ and j are to be interpreted as the free charge and current densities setting up the electromagnetic field under consideration, where the bound charges and currents, associated with the dielectric polarization and magnetization of the medium under consideration, are excluded.

1.2.3 Material Media and the Constitutive Relations Linear media

The constitutive equations are phenomenological relations depending on the type of the medium under consideration. There exist approximate microscopic theories of these relations for some types of media. The following relations hold for what are known as linear media:



In this context one has to distinguish between isotropic and anisotropic media. For an isotropic medium the symbols [ϵ] and [μ] in the above constitutive equations stand for scalar constants (to be denoted by ϵ and μ, respectively) that may, in general, be frequency dependent (see later). For an anisotropic medium, on the other hand, the symbols [ϵ] and [μ] in the constitutive relations stand for second-rank symmetric tensors represented, in any given Cartesian coordinate system, by symmetric matrices with elements, say, ϵij and μij, respectively (i, j = 1, 2, 3).

Digression: tensors and tensor fields

For a given r and given t, a vector such as E(r, t) is an element of a real three-dimensional linear vector space which we denote as . A tensor of rank 2 is then an element of a nine-dimensional vector space that includes the direct product and, in addition, contains all possible linear combinations of direct products of pairs of vectors. If constitute an orthonormal basis in , then an orthonormal basis in will be made up of the objects and a tensor of rank 2 can be expressed as a linear combination of the form Thus, with reference to this basis, the tensor under consideration is completely described by the 3 × 3 matrix with elements Cij. The matrix (and also the tensor) is termed ‘symmetric’ if Cij = Cji (i, j = 1, 2, 3). The matrix is said to be positive definite if all its eigenvalues are positive. Now consider any of the above field vectors (say, E(r, t)) at a given time instant but at all possible points r. This means a vector associated with every point in some specified region in space. The set of all these vectors is termed a vector field in the region under consideration. The vector field is, moreover, time dependent since the field vectors depend, in general, on t. Similarly, one can have a tensor field such as the permittivity tensor [ϵ] or the permeability tensor [μ] in an inhomogeneous anisotropic medium in which the electric and magnetic material properties vary from point to point in addition to being direction dependent. While these can, in general, even be time-dependent tensor fields, we will, in this book, consider media with time-independent properties alone.

Thus, in terms of the Cartesian components, relations (1.1f) and (1.1g) can be written as



As mentioned above, the electric permittivity and magnetic permeability tensors ([ϵ], [μ]) reduce, in the case of an isotropic medium, to scalars (corresponding to constant multiples of the identity matrix) and the above relations simplify to



It is not unusual for an optically anisotropic medium, with a permittivity tensor [ϵ], to be characterized by a scalar permeability μ (approximately μ0, the permeability of free space). In this book I use the SI system of units, in which the permittivity and permeability of free space are, respectively, ϵ0 = 8.85 × 10−12 C² N−1 m−2 and μ0 = 4π × 10−7 NA−2.

In general, for linear media with time-independent properties, the following situations may be encountered: (1) isotropic homogeneous media, for which ϵ and μ are scalar constants independent of r; (2) isotropic inhomogeneous media for which ϵ and μ are scalars but vary from point to point; (3) anisotropic homogeneous media where [ϵ] and [μ] are tensors independent of the position vector r; and (4) anisotropic inhomogeneous media in which [ϵ] and [μ] are tensor fields. As mentioned above, in most situations relating to optics one can, for simplicity, assume [μ] to be a scalar constant, μ μ0.

However, in reality, the relation between E and D is of a more complex nature (that between B and H may, in principle, be similarly complex), even for a linear, homogeneous, isotropic medium with time-independent properties, than is apparent from Eq. (1.3a) since ϵ is, in general, a frequency-dependent object. A time-dependent field vector can be analyzed into its Fourier components, each component corresponding to some specific angular frequency ω. A relation such as Eq. (1.3a) can be used only in situations where this frequency dependence of the electric (and also magnetic) properties of the medium under consideration can be ignored (ie, when dispersion effects are not important). In this book we will generally assume the media are nondispersive, taking into account dispersion effects only in certain specific contexts (see Section 1.17).

One more constitutive equation holds for a conducting medium:


where, in general, the conductivity [σ] is once again a second-rank symmetric tensor which, for numerous situations of practical relevance, reduces to a scalar. The conductivity may also be frequency dependent, as will be discussed briefly in Section Nonlinear media

Finally, a great variety of optical phenomena arise in nonlinear media, where the components of D depend nonlinearly on those of E. Such nonlinear phenomena will be considered in Chapter 9.

The definition of the field vector D involves, in addition to E, a second vector P, the polarization in the medium under consideration (see Section 1.2.7). The setting up of an electric field induces a dipole moment in every small volume element of the medium, the dipole moment per unit volume around any given point being the polarization at that point. The electric displacement vector is then defined as


In the case of a linear isotropic medium, the polarization occurs in proportion to the electric intensity:


where the constant of proportionality χE is referred to as the dielectric susceptibility of the medium. Relation (1.3a) then follows with the permittivity expressed in terms of the susceptibility as


where the constant ϵr(= 1 + χE) is referred to as the ‘relative permittivity of the medium’ (see Section 1.2.7). In the case of a linear anisotropic medium the susceptibility is in the nature of a tensor, in terms of which the permittivity tensor is defined in an analogous manner.

In general, the polarization P depends on the electric intensity E in a nonlinear manner (see Sections 9.2.3 and 9.2.4). This nonlinear dependence is manifested in a number of material media in the form of novel effects when relatively strong fields are set up in them.

The definition of the magnetic vector H in terms of B likewise involves a third vector M, the magnetization, which is the magnetic dipole moment per unit volume induced in the medium under consideration because of the magnetic field set up in it:


For a linear isotropic medium the magnetization develops in proportion to H (or, equivalently, to B) as


where χM is the magnetic susceptibility of the medium (see Section 1.2.7). Relation (1.3b) then follows with the permeability defined in terms of the magnetic susceptibility as


where μr(= 1 + χM) is the relative permeability.

As in the case of the relation between P and E, the magnetization also depends on H, in general, in a nonlinear fashion. However, in this book we will not have occasion to refer to magnetic anisotropy or magnetic nonlinearity since these are not commonly manifested in optical setups.

One can, moreover, assume that μr ≈ 1 (ie, μ ≈ μ0), which is true for most optical media of interest. The relation between B and H then reduces to


which is the same as that for free space (the second relation in Eq. 1.13).

1.2.4 Integral Form of Maxwell’s Equations

In electromagnetic theory and optics, one often encounters situations involving interfaces between different media such that there occurs a sharp change in the field vectors across these surfaces. A simple and convenient description of such situations can then be given in terms of field vectors changing discontinuously across such a surface. Discontinuous changes of field vectors in time and space may have to be considered in other situations as well, such as when one is describing the space-time behavior of the fields produced by sources that may be imagined to have been switched on suddenly at a given instant of time within a finite region of space, possibly having sharply defined boundaries.

A discontinuity in the field variables implies indeterminate values for their derivatives, which means that, strictly speaking, the Maxwell equations in the form of differential equations as written above do not apply to these points of discontinuity. One can then employ another version of these equations—namely, the ones in the integral form. The integral form of Maxwell’s equations admits idealized distributions of charges and currents—namely, surface charges and currents—to which one can relate the discontinuities in the field variables.

Surface charges and currents can be formally included in the differential version of Maxwell’s equations by representing them in terms of singular delta functions. However, strictly speaking, the delta functions are meaningful only within integrals.

We discount, for the time being, the possibility of the field variables being discontinuous as a function of time and consider only their spatial discontinuities. Let V denote any given region of space bounded by a closed surface S and let Σ be a surface bounded by a closed path Γ. Then Eqs. (1.1a)–(1.1d) can be expressed in the integral form





In these equations Q stands for the free charge within the volume V, I denote, respectively, the unit outward-drawn normal at any given point of S, the unit normal at any given point of Σ related to the sense of traversal of the path Γ (in defining the integrals along Γ) by the right-hand rule, and the unit tangent vector at any given point of Γ oriented along a chosen sense of traversal of the path. Expressed in the above form, Q and I include surface charges and currents, if any, acting as sources for the fields.

More generally, one can express Maxwell’s equations in the integral form while taking into account the possibility of discontinuities of the field variables as functions of time as well. The integrals are then taken over four-dimensional regions of space-time and are related to three-dimensional ‘surface’ integrals over the boundaries of these four-dimensional regions.

1.2.5 Boundary Conditions Across a Surface

The integral formulation of the Maxwell equations as stated earlier leads to a set of boundary conditions for the field variables across given surfaces in space. In the presence of surface charges and currents the boundary conditions involve the discontinuities of the field components across the relevant surfaces.

Referring to a surface Σ, and using the suffixes ‘1’ and ‘2’ to refer to the regions on the two sides of the surface, we can express the boundary conditions in the form



In these equations, σ stands for the free surface charge density at any given point on Σ, K stands for the unit normal on Σ at the point under consideration, directed from region ‘1’ into region ‘2,’ and the suffix ‘t’ is used to indicate the tangential component (along the surface Σ) of the respective vectors. Expressed in words, the above equations tell us that the normal component of the magnetic field intensity and the tangential component of the electric field intensity are continuous across the surface, while the normal component of the electric displacement vector and the tangential component of the magnetic field strength may possess discontinuities, the change in these quantities across the surface being related to the free surface charge density and the free surface current density, respectively.

1.2.6 The Electromagnetic Field in Free Space

Maxwell’s equations in free space describe the space and time variations of the field variables in a region where there is no material medium nor any source charges or currents:

   (1.12a) (1.12b) (1.12c) (1.12d)

An electromagnetic field set up in air is described, to a good degree of approximation, by these free space equations.

This is because the relative permittivity ( ) and relative permeability ( ) of air are both nearly unity in the optical range of frequencies.

At times one uses the free space equations with source terms introduced so as to describe the effect of charges and currents set up in free space or in air. These will then look like Eqs. (1.1a)–(1.1d) with Eqs. (1.1f) and (1.1g) replaced with


In particular, a material medium can be regarded as microscopic charge and current sources distributed in free space, in which case the space-time variations of the electromagnetic field can be described in this manner—that is, by means of Eqs. (1.1a)–(1.1d), with the above replacements. In addition, one has to consider electric and magnetic dipoles of microscopic origin similarly distributed in space. The resulting microscopic equations then lead, by means of an averaging, to the Maxwell equations (1.1a–1.1d) for the medium, as indicated in Section 1.2.7 below.

1.2.7 Microscopic and Macroscopic Variables for a Material Medium

A material medium can be regarded as microscopic charges and currents, of atomic origin, distributed in free space. In addition to these atomic charges and currents one can have charge and current sources of ‘external’ origin in the medium—external in the sense of not being tied up inside the atomic constituents.

Viewed this way, one can think of the fields produced in a vacuum by the bound (atomic) and free (external) microscopic charges and currents, where the charge and current densities vary sharply over atomic dimensions in space, causing the resulting fields to be characterized by similar sharp variations. Such variations, however, are not recorded by the measuring instruments used in macroscopic measurements, which measure only fields averaged over lengths large compared with the typical microscopic scales. When the microscopic charge and current densities are also similarly averaged, the microscopic Maxwell’s equations (ie, the ones written in terms of the fluctuating vacuum fields produced by the microscopic charges and currents) lead to the Maxwell equations for the material medium (ie, Eqs. 1.1a–1.1d) under consideration, featuring only the averaged field variables and the averaged source densities.

On averaging the microscopic charge densities around any given point of the medium, one obtains an expression of the form


while a similar averaging of the microscopic current densities gives


In these equations P and M stand for the electric polarization and magnetization vectors at the point under consideration, defined, respectively, as the macroscopic (ie, averaged) electric and magnetic dipole moments per unit volume. On rearranging terms in the averaged vacuum equations, writing (ρfree)av and (jfree)av as ρ and j, and defining the field variables D and H as in Eqs. (1.5) and (1.7), one obtains the set of Eqs. (1.1a)–(1.1d).

The constitutive relations (1.3a) and (1.3b), or more generally, Eqs. (1.2a) and (1.2b), then express a set of phenomenological linear relations, valid in an approximate sense for certain types of media, between P and E, on the one hand, and between M and H on the other. In the particular case of a linear isotropic medium these appear in the form


where, as mentioned earlier, χE and χM stand for the electric and magnetic susceptibilities, related to the permittivity and permeability as


The phenomenological constants


defined for such a medium, stand for the relative permittivity and the relative permeability introduced earlier, and are often used instead of χE and χM, being related to ϵ and μ as


More generally, though, one has to regard E, B, P, and M as the basic macroscopic variables, in terms of which D and H are defined as in Eqs. (1.5) and (1.7), where P and M are nonlinearly related to E and B. In this book, however, we will mostly assume that the magnetic vector H is related isotropically and linearly to the flux density B and that, moreover, μr ≈ 1 (this relation, however, is violated notably in the case of a metamaterial, as mentioned in Sections and 1.22).

1.3 Digression: Vector Differential Operators

1.3.1 Curvilinear Coordinates

A Cartesian coordinate system with coordinates, say, x1, x2, x3, is an orthogonal rectilinear one since the coordinate lines xi = constant (i = 1, 2, 3) are all straight lines where any two intersecting lines are perpendicular to one another. For an infinitesimal line element with endpoints (x1, x2, x3) and (x1 + dx1, x2 + dx2, x3 + dx3), the squared length of the line element is given by an expression of the form


More generally, one may consider an orthogonal curvilinear coordinate system (examples are the spherical polar and cylindrical coordinate systems), with coordinates, say, u1, u2, u3, where the coordinate lines ui = constant (i = 1, 2, 3) are orthogonal but curved. The squared length of a line element with endpoints (u1, u2, u3) and (u1 + du1, u2 + du2, u3 + du3) for such a system is of the general form


where the scale factors hi (i = 1, 2, 3) are, in general, functions of the coordinates u1, u2, u3. For the spherical polar coordinate system with coordinates r, θ, ϕ, while for the cylindrical coordinate system made up of coordinates ρ, ϕ, z, the scale factors are h1 = 1, h2 = ρ, h3 = 1.

In this book a differential expression such as, say, dx will often be used loosely to express a small increment that may alternatively be expressed as δx. Strictly speaking, expressions such as dx are meaningful only under integral signs. When used in an expression in the sense of a small increment, it will be implied that terms of higher degree in the small increment are not relevant in the context under consideration.

1.3.2 The Differential Operators

The differential operator grad operates on a scalar field to produce a vector field, while the operators div and curl operate on a vector field, producing a scalar field and a vector field, respectively. These are commonly expressed in terms of the symbol , where, in the Cartesian system, one has


being the unit vectors along the three coordinate axes. For an orthogonal curvilinear coordinate system, this generalizes to


are, in general, functions of the coordinates u1, u2, u3. Thus, for instance, for a vector field


one will have


operate on the components Aj and also .

In this sense one can write div A and curl A as A and ×A, respectively, while grad ϕ can be expressed as ϕ, where ϕ stands for a scalar field.

The second-order differential operators such as curl curl and grad div can be defined along similar lines, in terms of two successive applications of . A convenient definition of the operator ² acting on a vector field A is given by


1.4 Electromagnetic Potentials

An alternative, and often more convenient, way of writing Maxwell’s equations is the one that uses electromagnetic potentials instead of the field vectors. To see how this is done, let us consider a linear homogeneous isotropic dielectric with material constants ϵ and μ.

Eq. (1.1c) is identically satisfied on introducing a vector potentialA, in terms of which the magnetic intensity B is given by


Moreover, Eq. (1.1b) is also identically satisfied on introducing a scalar potential ϕ and writing the electric intensity E as


The remaining two Maxwell equations (1.1a and 1.1d) can then be expressed in terms of these two potentials, which involve four scalar variables, in the place of the six scalar components of E and B, in addition to the material constants:



1.4.1 Gauge Transformations

defined as


with an arbitrary scalar function Λ, lead to an alternative choice, A′, ϕ′, of the potentials. Eqs. (1.25) define what is referred to as the gauge transformation of the electromagnetic potentials.

1.4.2 The Lorentz Gauge and the Inhomogeneous Wave Equation

By an appropriate choice of the gauge function Λ, one can ensure that the new potentials satisfy


where the primes on the transformed potentials have been dropped for brevity. With the potentials satisfying the Lorentz condition, Eq. (1.26) and the field Eqs. (1.24a) and (1.24b) for the scalar and vector potentials assume the form of inhomogeneous wave equations and − μj, respectively:



A pair of potentials A, ϕ satisfying the Lorentz condition (1.26) by virtue of an appropriate choice of the gauge function Λ is said to belong to the Lorentz gauge. One may also consider a gauge transformation by means of a gauge function Λ such that the Lorentz condition (1.26) is not satisfied. One such choice of the gauge function, referred to as the Coulomb gauge, requires that the vector potential satisfy


The special advantage of the Lorentz gauge compared with other choices of gauge is that the field equations for A and ϕ are decoupled from each other, and each of the two potentials satisfies the inhomogeneous wave equation.

1.4.3 The Homogeneous Wave Equation in a Source-Free Region

In a source-free region of space the right-hand sides of Eqs. (1.27a) and (1.27b) become zero and the potentials are then found to satisfy the homogeneous wave equation. Since the field vectors E and B are linearly related to the potentials, they also satisfy the homogeneous wave equation in a source-free region:



1.5 The Hertz Vector Representation

Instead of using a vector potential and a scalar potential, one can represent the electromagnetic field in terms of a pair of vector potentials, termed the Hertz vectors. We denote the two Hertz vectors (the electric and the magnetic ones, respectively) by ΠE and ΠM. The electric and magnetic field vectors for a linear isotropic medium are related to these as


The electric and magnetic Hertz vectors satisfy inhomogeneous wave equations in which the sources are, in numerous situations of practical intrest, the polarization P0 and magnetization M0 of external origin—that is, electric and magnetic dipoles that may be present in the medium as externally generated sources, being independent of the field vectors E and H described by the Hertz vectors ΠE and ΠM. In the absence of externally induced polarization and magnetization, the Hertz vectors satisfy a pair of homogeneous wave equations.

As with the description of an electromagnetic field in terms of the vector and scalar potentials A and ϕ, the Hertz vectors are not unique. In other words, alternative pairs of Hertz vectors exist such that, with any such pair, the electric and magnetic field vectors are expressed by means of relations of the form (1.30). The transformation from any one pair of Hertz vectors to any other pair is again referred to as a ‘gauge transformation’ and is effected by means of a vector and a scalar gauge function.

An application of the Hertz vector representation will be briefly considered in Section 5.11.4 in connection with the problem of diffraction by a circular aperture.

1.6 The Principle of Superposition

The principle of superposition is applicable to solutions of Maxwell’s equations in a linear medium (Eqs. 1.1a–1.1d, along with Eqs. 1.3a and 1.3b, with ϵ and μ independent of the field strengths) since these constitute a set of linear partial differential equations. If, for a given set of boundary conditions, E1(r, t), H1(r, t) and E2(r, t), H2(r, t) are two solutions to these equations in some region of space free of source charges and currents, then a1E1(r, t) + a2E2(r, t), a1H1(r, t) + a2H2(r, t) also represents a solution satisfying the same boundary conditions, where a1 and a2 are scalar constants and where we assume that the boundary conditions are of an appropriate kind. More generally, the superposition of two or more solutions results in a new solution satisfying, possibly, a different set of boundary conditions compared with the ones satisfied by the ones one started with.

Of the four field variables E, D, B, and H, only two (made up of one electric and one magnetic variable) are independent, the remaining two being determined by the constitutive relations. A common choice for these two independent variables consists of the vectors E and H since the Maxwell equations possess a symmetric structure in terms of these variables. From a fundamental point of view, however, B and H are the magnetic analogs of E and D, respectively, according to which the independent pair may be chosen as E and B or, alternatively, D and H.

Starting from simple or known solutions of Maxwell’s equations, we can use the principle of superposition to construct more complex solutions that may represent the electromagnetic field in a given real-life situation to a good degree of approximation. Thus, starting from a pair of monochromatic plane wave solutions (see Section 1.12), one can obtain the field produced by a pair of narrow slits illuminated by a plane wave, where this superposed field is seen to account for the formation of interference fringes by the slits. Indeed, the principle of superposition has an all-pervading presence in electromagnetic theory and optics.

1.7 The Complex Representation

In electromagnetic theory in general, and in optics in particular, one often encounters fields that vary harmonically with time, or ones closely resembling such harmonically varying fields. Such a harmonically varying field has a temporal variation characterized by a single angular frequency, say, ω, and is of the form (we refer to the electric intensity for concreteness)


where E0(r) stands for the space-dependent real amplitude of the field and δ(r) stands for a time-independent phase that may be space dependent. Similar expressions hold for the other field vectors of the harmonically varying field where the space-dependent amplitudes and the phases (analogous to E0(r) and δ(r) characterizing the electric intensity vector) bear definite relations to one another since all the field vectors taken together have to satisfy the Maxwell equations.

A convenient way of working with harmonically varying fields, and with the field vectors in general, is to use the complex representation.

Corresponding to a real time-dependent (and also possibly space-dependent) vector A, such that


For a given vector A, Eq. (can be chosen arbitrarily. However, for a vector with harmonic time dependence of the form, say,


with amplitude Aunique by making the choice


is the complex amplitude with a phase factor e−iδ.

A unique complex representation having a number of desirable features can be introduced for a more general time dependence as well, as will be explained in Chapter 7.

The complex representation has been introduced here for a real time-dependent (and possibly space-dependent) vector A since the electromagnetic field variables are vector quantities. Evidently, an analogous complex representation can be introduced for space- and time-dependent scalar functions as well.

The complex representation for the harmonically varying electric field described by Eq. (1.31) is of the form


is the space-dependent complex amplitude of E(r, t), being related to the real amplitude E0(r) and the phase δ(r) as


(or even simply as Eby simply multiplying it by e−iωt, while one obtains the actual field E(r, t.

In using the complex representation, we commonly drop the tilde over the symbol of the scalar or the vector under consideration for brevity, it usually being clear from the context whether the real or the corresponding complex quantity is being referred to. I will use the tilde whenever there is any possibility of confusion.

The abbreviated symbol E is variously used to denote the complex amplitude ( ), the space- and time-dependent complex field vector , or the real field vector E(r, t) (similar notation is used for the other field vectors as well). The sense in which the symbol is used is, in general, clear from the context.

It is often convenient to employ the complex representation in expressions and calculations involving products of electric and magnetic field components and their time averages.

1.8 Energy Density and Energy Flux

1.8.1 Energy Density

It requires energy to set up an electromagnetic field in any given region of space. This energy may be described as being stored in the field itself, and is referred to as the ‘electromagnetic field energy,’ since the field can impart either part or all of this energy to other systems with which it can interact.

This is one reason why an electromagnetic field can be described as a dynamical system. It possesses energy, momentum, and angular momentum, which it can exchange with other dynamical systems, such as a set of charged bodies in motion.

The field energy can be expressed in the form


where the field vectors are all real, and where the integration is performed over the region in which the field is set up (or, more generally, over entire space since the field extends, in principle, to infinite distances).

One can work out, for instance, the energy required to set up an electric field between the plates of a parallel-plate capacitor and check that it is given by the first term on the right-hand side of Eq. (1.36). Similarly, on evaluating the energy required to set up the magnetic field within a long solenoid, one finds it to be given by the second term. The assumption that the sum of the two terms represents the energy associated with a time-varying electromagnetic field is seen to lead to a consistent interpretation, compatible with the principle of conservation of energy, and with results involving energy exchange between the electromagnetic field and material bodies with which the field may interact.

It seems reasonable to say that some amount of energy is contained within any and every finite volume within the region occupied by the field and to arrive at the concept of the electromagnetic energy density, the latter being the field energy per unit volume around any given point in space. Evidently, the concept of energy in any finite volume within the field is not as uniquely defined as that for the entire field. However, the integrand on the right-hand side of Eq. (1.36) can be interpreted to be a consistent expression for the energy density w. This energy density, moreover, can be thought of as being made up of two parts, an electric one and a magnetic one. The expressions for the electric, magnetic, and total energy densities are thus




For a field set up in empty space, the energy density is given by the expression


In general, the energy density w (and its electric and magnetic components we, wm) vary with time extremely rapidly and hence do not have direct physical relevance since no recording instrument can measure such rapidly varying fields. What is of greater relevance is the time-averaged energy density , where the averaging is done over a time long compared with the typical time interval over which the fields fluctuate. Indeed, compared with the latter, the averaging time may be assumed to be infinitely long without it causing any appreciable modification in the interpretation of the averaged energy density.

Thus the time-averaged energy density (which is often referred to as simply the ‘energy density’) at any given point of the electromagnetic field is given by


where the symbols E, D, etc., stand for the time-dependent real field vectors at the point under consideration, and the angular brackets indicate time averaging, the latter being defined for a time-dependent function f(t) as


For a field set up in free space, the time-averaged energy density is given by


At times the angular brackets are omitted in expressions representing the energy density for brevity, it usually being clear from the context that an appropriate time averaging is implied.

Note that the energy densities involve the time averages of products of field variables. A convenient way to work out these time averages is to use the complex representations of the field vectors. We consider here the special case of a harmonic time dependence of the field variables, discussed in Sections 1.7 and 1.11.2. Using the notation of Eqs. (1.34) and (1.35b), one arrives at the following result for the energy density at any given point r:


which can be written as


for a field in empty space. In Eq. (1.39b) the reference to the point r is omitted for brevity.

1.8.2 Poynting’s Theorem: The Poynting Vector

Considering any region V in an electromagnetic field bounded by a closed surface S, one can express in mathematical form the principle of conservation of energy as applied to the field and the system of particles constituting the charges and currents within this volume. One obtains the rate of change of the field energy within this region by taking the time derivative of the integral of the energy density over the region V, while the rate of change of the energy of the system of particles constituting the charges and currents in this region is the same as the rate at which the field transfers energy to these charges and currents. The latter is given by the expression E j per unit volume.

The rate at which the field transfers energy to the system of particles constituting the source charges and currents includes the rate at which mechanical work is done on these and also the rate at which energy is dissipated as heat into this system of particles. We assume here that the energy dissipation occurs only in the form of production of Joule heat and for simplicity ignore the energy dissipation due to the magnetic hysteresis, if any, occurring within the region under consideration.

Summing up the two expressions referred to above (the rate of increase of the field energy and that of the energy of the charges and currents), one obtains the rate at which the total energy of the systems inside the region V under consideration changes with time. The principle of conservation of energy then implies that this must be the rate at which the field energy flows into the region through its boundary surface S.

Using the above observations, and going through a few steps of mathematical derivation by starting from Maxwell’s equations, one arrives at the following important result (Poynting’s theorem):


at any given point on the surface) of the vector


This vector, at any given point in the field, is referred to as the Poynting vector at that point and, according to the principle of conservation of energy as formulated above, can be interpreted as the flux of electromagnetic energy at that point (ie, as the rate of flow of energy per unit area of an imagined surface perpendicular to the vector). Once again, there remains an arbitrariness in the definition of the energy flux, though the above expression is acceptable on the ground that it is a consistent one.

1.8.3 Intensity at a Point

Recalling that the field vectors at any given point are rapidly varying functions of time, one can state that only the time average of the Poynting vector, rather than the rapidly varying vector itself, is of physical relevance, being given by


Assuming that the temporal variation of the field vectors is a harmonic one, and using the complex representation of vectors as explained in Section 1.7, one obtains


stand for the complex amplitudes corresponding to the respective real time-dependent vectors (appearing in Eq. 1.42) at the point under consideration. The magnitude of this time-averaged energy flux at any given point in an electromagnetic field then gives the intensity (I) at that point:


denotes the unit vector along 〈S〉.

One way of looking at Maxwell’s equations is to say that these equations describe how the temporal variations of the field vectors in one region of space are transmitted to adjacent regions. In the process, there occurs the flow of field energy referred to above. In addition, there occurs a flow of momentum and angular momentum associated with the field. Analogous to the energy flux vector, one can set up expressions for the flux of field momentum and angular momentum, where all these appear as components of a tensor quantity.

1.9 Optical Fields: An Overview

An optical setup typically involves a light source emitting optical radiation (also termed an optical field here and in the following) which is a space- and time-dependent electromagnetic field, one or more optical devices, such as beam splitters, lenses, screens with apertures, and stops or obstacles, and finally, one or more detecting devices such as photographic plates and photocounters. The optical devices serve to change or modify the optical field produced by the source depending on the purpose at hand, and this modified optical field is detected and recorded to generate quantitative data relating to the optical field.

If the electromagnetic field produced by the source or recorded by a detecting device is analyzed at any given point in space over an interval of time, it will be found to correspond to a time-dependent electric and magnetic field intensity, constituting an optical signal at that point. This time dependence is commonly determined principally by the nature of the source rather than by the optical devices such as lenses and apertures. On analyzing the optical signal, one finds it to be made up of a number of components, each component corresponding to a particular frequency. For some sources the frequencies of the components are distributed over a narrow range (which, ideally, may even be so narrow as to admit only a single frequency), or these may be spread out over a comparatively wider range.

On close scrutiny, the time variation of an optical signal is often found to be of a random or statistical nature rather than a smooth and regular one. This relates to the very manner in which a source emits optical radiation. While the source is commonly a macroscopic body, the radiation results from a large number of microscopic events within it, where a

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