Abstract

A quasimonochromatic photon beam is constructed by the superposition of quasimonochromatic plane waves with certain mutual coherence properties. The information which the photon beam can carry about the reflectivity of a specular sample is investigated, taking radiation fluctuations into account. In Sec. 4 an expression is found for the information content of the beam as a function of the resolution of the detector system. In Sec. 5 it is found that there exists a maximum information which a given thermal photon beam can carry. This is obtained with a detector system of a specified resolution. The information contained in an idealized maser beam is computed in Sec. 6 and compared with the information in a beam from a low-pressure mercury emission line. It is found that the information in the maser beam can be several orders of magnitude higher. It is limited mainly by the highest obtainable scanning rate.

© 1965 Optical Society of America

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