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Photon Splitting or Merging

  1. Aug 24, 2007 #1
    Accompanying the article "Magnetars," by Kouveliotou, et al, Scientific American, February, 2003, is a graphic labeled "Extreme Magnetism" which shows four ways in which "Magnetar fields wreak havoc with radiation and matter."

    One of these ways is spontaneous (my word) Photon Splitting, described as "In a related effect, x-rays freely split in two or merge together. This process is important in fields stronger than 10^14 gauss."

    I have trouble visualizing or understanding this process by which a photon can split or merge with another photon which doesn't involve some other particle (e.g., an electron). If someone could elaborate in layman terms, it would be appreciated.

    FWIW, the three other ways listed are Vacuum Birefringence, Scattering Suppression, and Distortion of Atoms.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2007 #2


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    Cool - I had never heard of that before.
    I think the paper says that the photon splits into a electron-positron pair and because these are in a strng magnetic field they emit photons before recombining.
  4. Aug 24, 2007 #3
    What paper is that? Certainly not the article I cited. All it says is:
    It provides the observation of what could happen, but does not explain how, at least to my rudimentary level of understanding.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2007
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