Self-similarity and long-tailed distributions in the generation of thermal light
Rockower, Edward B.
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Two counterintuitive phenomena are studied. ( 1) It is well known that a thermal electromagnetic field has a Bose-Einstein (geometric) distribution of photons within a coherence volume. This arises because of the photon clumping characteristic of a thermal Boson field. On the other hand, the distribution of the number of atoms emitting photons through spontaneous emission must be Poisson if emissions are truly independent. ( 2) The average time between atomic decays is finite, being just the inverse of the total decay rate of the atoms. However, it is shown that in a coherence volume or in a single mode of the resulting Gaussian electromagnetic field, the average photon interarrival time is infinite. Hence, on average, an infinite length of time must pass before (N) photons arrive in the field. These apparent paradoxes are discussed, showing how both arise from random interference of Boson fields. The infinite waiting time is seen to be one manifestation of a long-tailed distribution. Such distributions are increasingly important by virtue of their relation to self-similarity and fractals, e.g., strange attractors in the description of deterministic chaos; therefore, it is of interest to understand their counterintuitive properties and see how they arise naturally even in more traditional analyses.
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