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  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Field–field and photon–photon interferometry


Optical interferometry was at the heart of the revolution which ushered in the new era of twentieth century physics. For example, the Michelson interferometer was used to show that there is no detectable motion relative to the ‘ether’; a key experiment in support of special relativity.

It is a wonderful tribute to Michelson that the same interferometer concept is central to the gravity-wave detectors which promise to provide new insights into general relativity and astrophysics in the twenty-first century. Similar tales can be told about the Sagnac and Mach–Zehnder interferometers as discussed in this chapter. We further note that the intensity correlation stellar interferometer of Hanbury- Brown and Twiss was a driving force in ushering in the modern era of quantum optics.

We are thus motivated to develop the theory of field (amplitude) and photon (intensity) correlation interferometry. In doing so we will find that the subject provides us with an exquisite probe of the micro and macrocosmos, i.e., quantum mechanics and general relativity.

With these thoughts in mind we here develop a framework to study the quantum statistical correlations of light. We will motivate the quantum correlation functions of the field operators from the standpoint of photodetection theory. Many experimentally observed quantities, such as photoelectron statistics and the spectral distribution of the field, can be related to the appropriate field correlation functions. These correlation functions are essential in the description of Young's double-slit experiment and the notion of the power spectrum of light.