Interference: The History of Optical Interferometry and the Scientists Who Tamed Light

Preorder from Oxford University Press

(Available September 2023)

Chapter Contents

1. Thomas Young Polymath

            The Law of Interference. The Rosetta Stone. Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Royal Society. Christiaan Huygens. Pendulum Clocks. Icelandic Spar. Huygens’ Principle. Stellar Aberration. Speed of Light. Double-slit Experiment.

2. The Fresnel Connection

            Particles versus Waves. Malus and Polarization. Agustin Fresnel. Francois Arago. Diffraction. Daniel Bernoulli. The Principle of Superposition. Joseph Fourier. Transverse Light Waves.

3. At Light Speed

            The Birth of Interferometry. Snell’s Law. Fresnel and Arago. The First Interferometer. Fizeau and Foucault. The Speed of Light. Ether Drag. Jamin Interferometer.

4. After the Gold Rush

            The Trials of Albert Michelson. Hermann von Helmholtz. Michelson and Morley. Fabry and Perot.

5. Stellar Interference

            Measuring the Stars. Astrometry. Moons of Jupiter. Schwarzschild. Betelgeuse. Michelson Stellar Interferometer. Banbury Brown Twiss. Sirius. Adaptive Optics.

6. Across the Universe

            Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and the Search for Exoplanets. Nulling Interferometer. Event Horizon Telescope. M87 Black Hole. Long Baseline Interferometry. LIGO. Gravitation Waves.

7. Two Faces of Microscopy

            Diffraction and Interference. Joseph Fraunhofer. Diffraction Gratings. Henry Rowland. Carl Zeiss. Ernst Abbe. Phase-contrast Microscopy. Super-resolution Micrscopes. Structured Illumination.

8. Holographic Dreams of Princess Leia

            Crossing Beams. Denis Gabor. Wavefront Reconstruction. Holography. Emmett Leith. Lasers. Ted Maiman. Charles Townes. Optical Maser. Dynamic Holography. Light-field Imaging.

9. Photon Interference

            The Beginnings of Quantum Communication. EPR paradox. Entanglement. David Bohm. John Bell. The Bell Inequalities. Leonard Mandel. Single-photon Interferometry. HOM Interferometer. Two-photon Fringes. Quantum cryptography. Quantum Teleportation.

10. The Quantum Advantage

            Interferometric Computing. David Deutsch. Quantum Algorithm. Peter Shor. Prime Factorization. Quantum Logic Gates. Linear Optical Quantum Computing. Boson Sampling. Quantum Computational Advantage.

About the Book:

Interference: A History of Interferometry and the Scientists who Tamed Light explores the history and science of optical interference.  From the colors of soap bubbles to the detection of gravity waves at LIGO, from holographic displays to the optical encryption of quantum information, from super-resolution microscopy to images of distant black holes by the Event Horizon Telescope—interference resides inside a bewilderingly broad range of phenomena in physics. 

Interference tells how superposition and interference helped shape modern physics.  The chapters alternate between historical perspectives and explanations of physical principles.  The chapters introduce and explain the history and physics of stellar interferometers, gravitational wave detectors, projection holograms, super-resolution microscopes, and the search for exoplanets, among others.

The last decade has seen several unique interferometric milestones: 1) the first exoplanet detection using interferometric telescopes, 2) the first image of a black hole using long-baseline interferometry, 3) the first detection of gravitational waves, and 4) the first demonstration of quantum computational advantage.  This list of achievements in such a short time points to the fertile and active field of interferometric science for which this book will provide a convenient and up-to-date guide for a wide audience.