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Interpreting the anholonomy of coiled light


Circular birefringence of purely geometric origin was recently predicted1 and observed2 in helically coiled monomode optical fibres, and widely reported3–5 as a successful application to photons of a general theory6,7 for phase shifts in adiabatically transported quantum states. However, earlier similar observations8–10 had been interpreted not by quantum mechanics but simply as a classical anholonomy, namely parallel transport of the polarization11. Indeed, because the magnitude of the effect is independent of the wavelength of the light as well as Planck's constant, it might seem that 'classical' here means that not only quantum but also wave effects can be neglected. Here, I argue that these experiments, and their discrete analogues, are most appropriately described at the level of classical electromagnetism; the parallel transport law can then be derived (rather than assumed8–11) and nonadiabatic polarization changes calculated.

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Berry, M. Interpreting the anholonomy of coiled light. Nature 326, 277–278 (1987).

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