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Abstract: The polarization process when polarizers act on an optical field is studied.We give examples for two kinds of polarizers. The first kind presents ananisotropic absorption - as in a polaroid film - and the second one is based ontotal reflection at the interface with a birefringent medium. Using the Stokesvector representation, we determine explicitly the trajectories of the wavelight polarization during the polarization process. We find that suchtrajectories are not always geodesics of the Poincar\-e sphere as it is usuallythought. Using the analogy between light polarization and special relativity,we find that the action of successive polarizers on the light wave polarizationis equivalent to the action of a single resulting polarizer followed by arotation achieved for example by a device with optical activity. We find acomposition law for polarizers similar to the composition law for noncollinearvelocities in special relativity. We define an angle equivalent to therelativistic Wigner angle which can be used to quantify the quality of twocomposed polarizers.

Autor: J. Lages, R. Giust, J.-M. Vigoureux


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