Can two photons interfere with each other


by εllipse
Tags: interfere, interference, photons
εllipse
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#1
Aug25-05, 08:36 PM
P: 195
Can two photons interfere with each other, or is interference strictly limited to a photon (et cetera) "interfering with itself"?
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mmwave
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#2
Aug26-05, 01:11 AM
P: 211
Sure, for example in the Michelson Interferometer two different photons interfere to make a dark or a light region in the pattern you see.
marlon
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#3
Aug26-05, 02:37 AM
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Quote Quote by εllipse
Can two photons interfere with each other,
Of course they can, dispersion-fenomena like the rainbow, or all known diffraction patterns are a proof of that.

marlon

Edgardo
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#4
Aug26-05, 12:05 PM
P: 685

Can two photons interfere with each other


Hello εllipse,

unlike the previous two posters, I have another opinion. Photons do not interfere with each other.

Example: Double slit experiment
Here, one can show that a photon so to say "interferes with itself". You can read the Marcella paper, where the interference pattern is explained quantum mechanically as single photon interference (it's a very good paper! ):

Thomas Marcella, "Quantum interference with slits", European Journal of Physics 23 (2002), pp. 615-621
Try to download it here: http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0143-0807/23/6/303


@Marlon:
Diffraction can be explained by single photon interference, it's not a result of two photons interacting with each other (see example above).


@mmwave:
In the Michelson interferometer two photons also do not interact.
Another example is the Mach Zehnder interferometer, where single photons show "interference". There's a nice paper on it:

“Photon Quantum Mechanics and Beam Splitters,” C.H. Holbrow, E.J. Galvez, and M.E. Parks, American Journal of Physics 70, 260-265 (2002)
You can download it here for free:
http://departments.colgate.edu/physi...es/ajpbs02.pdf
marlon
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#5
Aug26-05, 12:42 PM
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Quote Quote by Edgardo
@Marlon:
Diffraction can be explained by single photon interference, it's not a result of two photons interacting with each other (see example above).
I do not think you got my point. The observed diffractionpatterns all arise because of the combination of diffraction and interference. that was my point

marlon
marlon
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#6
Aug26-05, 12:46 PM
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Quote Quote by Edgardo
unlike the previous two posters, I have another opinion. Photons do not interfere with each other.
Actually we need to make something clear here. Interference is a wave like property while a photon is a the mere particle-interpretation of a wave. So saying that two photons interfere with each other is incorrect since you are combining two concepts that are different in nature. It is like trying to express or explain 24 in terms of the colour red.

To first order, photons do not interact with each other but in higher order perturbationtheory photons DO mutually interact (indirectly though) via a process called hadronization.

marlon
Edgardo
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#7
Aug26-05, 01:30 PM
P: 685
I think εllipse is asking whether photons interact in such a way that they annihilate each other like electromagnetic or sound waves.
The post by mmwave for example shows that there's this misconception.

But let's ask εllipse what exactly he means with his question.

-----------------

side note for Marlon:

Classically, where you have electromagnetic waves, I agree with you Marlon that there might be a difference between the terms "diffraction" and "interference".
For the double slit we have:
a) Two infinite narrow slits => only interference pattern
b) Two finite narrow slits => diffraction (in the classical sense) pattern also occurs, which can be explained by single slit with finite width

However, there might be misunderstanding: When I mention interference I am talking about quantum interference where you add probability amplitudes if indistinguishable ways occur.
Then one explains the double slit interference pattern not as a combination of diffraction and classical interference but only as a result of quantum interference (adding probability amplitudes like in the Marcella paper).
εllipse
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#8
Aug26-05, 09:36 PM
P: 195
Quote Quote by Edgardo
But let's ask εllipse what exactly he means with his question.
Hmm, I don't really know; I'm confused on this, so that's why I'm asking .

In my physics class, my teacher teacher mentioned a little about the wave properties of light, and I assumed it was similar to how two out of phase sound waves can have destructive interference, but in reading about quantum mechanics I've learned that the wave properties of photons, and everything else, are waves or probablity, and then you have the Feynman interpretation, where one particle takes all paths and "interferes with itself"; is that right? So I was asking if two particles will interfere with each other or if the interference is limitted to one particle interfering with itself. Maybe I don't know enough of what I'm talking about to ask the question right.

Let me try asking another way, and hopefully it'll make sense. Can two light waves which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no light? And is this a different question from asking, "Can two photons which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no photons?"



Why is quantum mechanics so much more difficult for me to get a handle on than relativity?
Edgardo
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#9
Aug27-05, 06:14 AM
P: 685
Hello εllipse,

I'd like to know in which grade you are, then we know how far we can go with our explanations.

Quote Quote by εllipse
In my physics class, my teacher teacher mentioned a little about the wave properties of light, and I assumed it was similar to how two out of phase sound waves can have destructive interference
Yes, that's correct. If you don't use quantum mechanics, then you can compare the wave properties of light with that of sound waves. And there's nothing wrong with this model, it's a wonderful theory which allows you to calculate the pattern behind a double slit, single slit etc..
It only becomes a problem when you turn down the laser intensity and you see single photons behind the double slit:
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000...two-slit2.html
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000...two-slit3.html


Quote Quote by εllipse
, but in reading about quantum mechanics I've learned that the wave properties of photons, and everything else, are waves or probablity, and then you have the Feynman interpretation, where one particle takes all paths and "interferes with itself"; is that right?
Yes, correct. Your "waves of probability" are called "probability amplitudes" in quantum mechanics. And the Feynman interpretation says that the photon interferes with itself.


Quote Quote by εllipse
So I was asking if two particles will interfere with each other or if the interference is limitted to one particle interfering with itself. Maybe I don't know enough of what I'm talking about to ask the question right.
In my understanding it's only the latter, namely interference is limited to one particle with itself.

Quote Quote by εllipse
Let me try asking another way, and hopefully it'll make sense. Can two light waves which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no light? And is this a different question from asking, "Can two photons which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no photons?"
Two photons, which are out of phase do not interfere with each other destructively. You have two photons, each of them with a probability amplitude. And these probability amplitudes (or probability "waves) do not interfere with each other.
It's like the photon says: "Heh, there's another photon, but I don't care. I only interfere with myself and only listen to MY propability amplitude."


Quote Quote by εllipse
Why is quantum mechanics so much more difficult for me to get a handle on than relativity?
Hey no problem, that's normal. Everyone finds quantum mechanics difficult at the beginning. To be honest, I only understood in 5th semester university what was meant by "the photon interferes with itself".

The quantum effects seem so weird, but that's what makes quantum theory so interesting.

And a question to you: Do you know the double slit experiment, and what problem comes up when you see single photon dots on the screen?
This experiment really helped me to understand what is meant by "the photon interferes with itself".
Edgardo
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#10
Aug27-05, 06:28 AM
P: 685
One more thing:

There's a book by Richard Feynman with the title "QED: The strange theory of light and matter". It's a book for everyone. And in the first chapter Feynman gives an example of the photon interfering with itself (glassplate, reflectivity changes with thickness). The photon's probability amplitude is illustrated as arrow in this book, just check it out.
Sherlock
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#11
Aug27-05, 11:26 AM
P: 343
Quote Quote by εllipse
Can two light waves which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no light?
Yes.
Quote Quote by εllipse
And is this a different question from asking, "Can two photons which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no photons?"
Yes.
Quote Quote by εllipse
Why is quantum mechanics so much more difficult for me to get a handle on than relativity?
It's probably the more difficult for everyone. There's just more
stuff to learn to "get a handle on" quantum theory. I don't have
a handle on it yet, being only an intermittent student -- just some
of the basics.

Below are some links to papers and lists of references.

http://student.science.nus.edu.sg/~g...terference.pdf

http://www.bu.edu/qil/pdf/PRL-09-02-96.pdf

http://physics.umbc.edu/Research/qua...tions.new.html
εllipse
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#12
Aug28-05, 01:52 AM
P: 195
Ok, thanks.

Quote Quote by Edgardo
I'd like to know in which grade you are, then we know how far we can go with our explanations.
12th (US)

Yes, that's correct. If you don't use quantum mechanics, then you can compare the wave properties of light with that of sound waves. And there's nothing wrong with this model, it's a wonderful theory which allows you to calculate the pattern behind a double slit, single slit etc..
It only becomes a problem when you turn down the laser intensity and you see single photons behind the double slit:
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000...two-slit2.html
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000...two-slit3.html
Ok, so what you're saying is although this can model reality, it's not at all what really happens. And I know physicists shy away from saying what does "really" happen, but there are times when you can say there are certain things that obviously don't "really" happen (like the Bell inequality, which puts a restricts certain ways the world can't be (local realism, etc)). So two sources of light won't interfere with each other in the sense of destructive interference and wave patterns? The Michelson-Morely experiment stuff I've read has talked about it as if two photons interfere with each other, but I am assuming that in the context of the quantum mechanics, what's really happening is an individual photon is travelling both paths and interfering with itself?

And a question to you: Do you know the double slit experiment, and what problem comes up when you see single photon dots on the screen?
This experiment really helped me to understand what is meant by "the photon interferes with itself".
Yes, I think so. I know about the double slit experiment and have read that it has been performed by sending single particles through at a time, so the conclusion is that there is some way the particles take both paths, because when they end up on the other side it's just a dot, although statistically it makes an interference pattern as more and more dots build up.
εllipse
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#13
Aug28-05, 01:56 AM
P: 195
Quote Quote by Sherlock
Quote Quote by εllipse
Can two light waves which are out of phase destructively interfere and produce no light?
Yes.
Do you mean that two probability waves from the same photon which go through different slits in the double slit experiment will ineterfere, or are you saying that two "light waves" of some other meaning from different sources can interfere?

I'm sorry if the answer to this was addressed in the links you provided. It is late here, and I need to get some sleep. I will read through the links in the morning, thanks.
Blackforest
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#14
Aug28-05, 03:26 AM
P: 445
Before everything I would like to apologize if I write something false because I don't have a university level in physics. But your discussion seems to be a central pattern relatively to my own approach. As I remark, a part of the discussion is turning around a definition of concept: diffraction, interference, ... By side, everything in the experiment seems to indicate a possible self interaction for the photon. This fact is discussed here with the usual binoculars. May I introduce some new remarks: It is well-known that every light can be considerred as the superposition of two ellipsoidal polarized waves (see Landau and Lifschitz). What I mean with this: every light (photon) has from the very beginning a dual nature; a photon is a dual thing. Can not this intrinsic duality be the deep reason explaining why a photon can act (interfere) with itself?
mcoy
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#15
Aug28-05, 05:46 AM
P: 5
fibre optics, anyone?
Edgardo
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#16
Aug28-05, 12:58 PM
P: 685
Quote Quote by ellipse
Ok, so what you're saying is although this can model reality, it's not at all what really happens.
In my opinion what "really" happens is that single photons interfere with themselves.
But I want to stress that I would never tell somebody that the wavemodel is "wrong", since it makes correct predictions.

Quote Quote by ellipse
The Michelson-Morely experiment stuff I've read has talked about it as if two photons interfere with each other, but I am assuming that in the context of the quantum mechanics, what's really happening is an individual photon is travelling both paths and interfering with itself?
What you probably read two electromagnetic waves interfering, NOT two photons interfering with each other. You can use the wave model too.
But then like in the double slit, when you have a weak laser such that you see single photons, you must use quantum mechanics and you have individual photons that interfere with themselves.
For example read the abstract here:
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v74/i24/p4763_1
The physicist Paul Kwiat uses a Michelson interferometer to make "quantum mechanical bomb tests"
See also here, figure 6: http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/p/pdfs/pr/pr_97_98/ifm.pdf
where a Michelson interferometer is shown.

Quote Quote by ellipse
So two sources of light won't interfere with each other in the sense of destructive interference and wave patterns?
I am a little careful here. I did a little search on the internet and read about an experiment where you have two independent(!) laser beams that show "some sort of" interference effect. I can't tell you what kind of interference exactly was observed in the experiment (I think beat signal), since I haven't read the papers yet [1],[2],[3] (see at the bottom of this post).
But from what I read from another discussion board and a paper [3], it's not to be understood as an interference of two photons:
I typed in google interfere "Two lasers" and found the following websites:
http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives...4535.Ph.r.html
http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/1999-02/msg0014357.html
http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-54/iss-8/p62.html

Some quotes from them:
Quote Quote by http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-54/iss-8/p62.html
Pursuing the theme of fourth-order interference with pairs of photons in the late 1980s, Mandel and his students demonstrated quantum spatial beating, violations of local realism, and phase memory due to quantum entanglement with the vacuum. His group showed that P. A. M. Dirac's well-known statement about single-photon interference must be modified to assert that, in fourth-order interference, a pair of photons interferes only with the pair itself. He and his students also introduced what became known as the Hong-Ou- Mandel interferometer.
Quote Quote by "Quantum effects in one-photon and two-photon interference", L. Mandel, Review of Modern Physics, Volume 71, Number 2, 1999
It should be clear from the foregoing that in these experiments one photon does not interfere with another one; only the two probability amplitudes of the same photon interfere with each other. This has been confirmed more explicitly in interference experiments with a single photon (Grangier et al., 1986) and in experiments with two independent laser beams, in which interference was observed even when then light was so weak that one photon passed through the interferometer and was absorbed by the detector
long before the next photon came along (Pfleegor and Mandel, 1967, 1968).
I've given you links above, but always be careful about what you read from other websites. There's much crap on the internet. I only would trust the peer reviewed papers (see [1],[2],[3] at the bottom).

Besides, it's nice that you already understand the problem with the double slit experiment.

-----------------

References

[1] "Interference of Independent Photon Beams", R.L. Pfleegor and L. Mandel, Physical Review Letters, Volume 159, Number 5, 1967
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v159/i5/p1084_1

[2] "Quantum Theory of Interference of Light from Two Lasers", Jordan and Ghielmetti, Physical Review Letters, Volume 12, Number 22, June 1964
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v12/i22/p607_1

[3] "Quantum effects in one-photon and two-photon interference", L. Mandel,
Review of Modern Physics, Volume 71, Number 2, 1999
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/RMP/v71/i2/pS274_1
http://student.science.nus.edu.sg/~g...terference.pdf
Sherlock
Sherlock is offline
#17
Aug29-05, 12:12 PM
P: 343
Quote Quote by εllipse
Do you mean that two probability waves from the same photon which go through different slits in the double slit experiment will ineterfere, or are you saying that two "light waves" of some other meaning from different sources can interfere?
I took your question about "light waves" as referring to classical
light waves. You can do this experiment at home and see the
regions of constructive and destructive interference.

Get recent textbooks on the classical and quantum theories of light
if you can. I have to do this myself. :-) There are lots of
online sources for good condition used books that will probably
fit your budget.

I don't know what to recommend at this time since I'm still
looking -- maybe some of the science advisers here can let us
know what they think are some good ones.


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