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Polarized Light and Quantum Spin

  1. Jul 28, 2012 #1
    Can there be EM radiation with spin zero?

    I don't mean that the sum of all spins is zero, as it usually is. My thinking is that all light spins and usually the left and right component is of equal intensity.

    Am I correct in thinking that light reflecting off of a suitable horizontal surface, like water, is horizontally polarized because the left and right spinning components reinforce on the horizontal plane and cancel in the vertical plane?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2012 #2

    mfb

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    You can have a superposition of left- and right-handed photons with equal amplitude, this gives light without (net) spin, right. It has a linear polarization.
     
  4. Jul 29, 2012 #3
    OK, so now I'm trying to understand ordinary incoherent light. With polarized light the phase is defined. Is the phase undefined or superposed in ordinary unpolarized light?
     
  5. Jul 29, 2012 #4

    mfb

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    Unpolarized light just consists of photons of all polarizations without any specific order.
     
  6. Jul 29, 2012 #5
    You can have EM radiation with net zero polarization. Individual photons however always have spin +1,-1. It has something to do with the fact that the photon is massless.

    https://www.physicsforums.com/archive/index.php/t-12373.html
     
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