A 350-year-old theorem can explain the quantum properties of light

For centuries, scientists have tried to unravel the mysterious nature of light, which can behave as both a wave and a particle. This duality has long puzzled researchers, but now a groundbreaking study using classical mechanics has succeeded in shedding light on two key properties of light: polarization and entanglement. The study is published in the journal Physical Review Research

Polarization, i.e. the orientation of light waves, is a fundamental characteristic that is used in a variety of applications, such as sunglasses that screen out certain light. On the other hand, entanglement is a phenomenon in which entangled photons remain bound regardless of the distance between them, resulting in instantaneous changes in one particle affecting the other.

While these properties may seem unrelated to classical mechanics, the research team explored the possibility of a polarization analog in the Huygens-Steiner theorem. This 350-year-old theorem explains how a solid body rotates about an axis that does not pass through its center of mass and is important for the study of celestial objects and practical applications.

Lead author Xiaofeng Qian of Stevens Institute of Technology said, “This is a well-known mechanical theorem that explains the operation of physical systems such as clocks or prosthetic limbs. But we were able to show that it can also provide new insights into how light works.”

The team used the intensity of light as an analog of the mass of a physical object and mapped the rest of the properties based on the structure of the theorem. Although light is not a classical body, this approach allowed them to describe light using well-known physical equations.

Qian explains, “Essentially, we found a way to translate an optical system into a mechanical system and then describe it using well-known physical equations. What used to be abstract becomes concrete: using mechanical equations, we can literally measure the distance between the ‘center of mass’ and other mechanical points to show how different properties of light are related to each other.”

The remarkable success of this comparison between classical mechanics and the properties of light raises intriguing questions about the underlying connections. Understanding these connections can have a significant impact on our understanding of quantum properties and their practical applications.

Experts in the field are delighted with these results. Dr. Sarah Johnson, a quantum physicist at the University of Cambridge, said, “This study represents a unique approach to understanding the behavior of light using classical mechanics. It opens up new opportunities to explore the intricacies of quantum mechanics and could lead to breakthroughs in fields ranging from advanced optics to quantum computing.”

Although the exact reasons for the correspondence between classical mechanics and the properties of light remain unclear, this groundbreaking research marks a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of light. By bridging the gap between classical and quantum mechanics, scientists can uncover new insights into the fundamental nature of our universe.

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