The concept of the photon - Revisited Academic Article uri icon


  • The photon concept is one of the most debated issues in the history of physical science. Some thirty years ago, we published an article in Physics Today entitled "The Concept of the Photon,"1 in which we described the "photon" as a classical electromagnetic field plus the fluctuations associated with the vacuum. However, subsequent developments required us to envision the photon as an intrinsically quantum mechanical entity, whose basic physics is much deeper than can be explained by the simple 'classical wave plus vacuum fluctuations' picture. These ideas and the extensions of our conceptual understanding are discussed in detail in our recent quantum optics book.2 In this article we revisit the photon concept based on examples from these sources and more. 2003 Optical Society of America.

published proceedings

  • Optics and Photonics News

author list (cited authors)

  • Muthukrishnan, A., Scully, M. O., & Zubairy, M. S.

complete list of authors

  • Muthukrishnan, A||Scully, MO||Zubairy, MS

publication date

  • January 2003