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Lasers & Sources

Serge Haroche IYL Presentation: Light and the Quantum

A Nobel plenary lecture from the International Year of Light opening ceremony in Paris.

23 February 2015, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/3.201502.16

The world is made up of atoms which emit, absorb and diffuse light. Light is the essential vehicle for the information which we receive about our environment. At the beginning of the last century, quantum theory uncovered the enigmatic laws obeyed by matter and radiation at a microscopic level, in a counterintuitive world in which the notions of waves and particles are closely intertwined.

Light is both a continuous stream and a collection of discrete photons. This enigmatic area of physics is based on the principle of  superposition. A microscopic system can actually exist in several possible states simultaneously, suspended as it were between various classical realities. This lecture explains how light reveals the quantum nature of physical reality.

Serge Haroche is a professor at the Collège de France and holds the Chair of Quantum Physics. Haroche was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with David J. Wineland for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems," a study of the particle of light, the photon.

He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.