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Fundamental optics

Failure of plane waves

Light beams striking a flat surface are commonly considered to reflect with perfect symmetry. But highly precise experiments in the infrared region have now confirmed that this is not truly the case in practice, and the size of the angular deviation has now been measured.

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Figure 1: Sketch of reflection without lateral and angular deviation (black arrows), and with lateral shift D and angular deviation ΘoutΘin (red arrows).
Figure 2: Functions of amplitude reflectivity versus angle of incidence Θ in of incidence for light polarized parallel, rp, and perpendicular, rs, to the plane of incidence.


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Nimtz, G. Failure of plane waves. Nature Photon 3, 319–320 (2009).

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