Circular birefringence in crystal optics

Richard J. Potton

In crystal optics the special status of the rest frame of the crystal means that space-time symmetry is less restrictive of electrodynamic phenomena than it is of static electromagnetic effects. A relativistic justification for this claim is provided and its consequences for the analysis of optical activity are explored. The discrete space-time symmetries P and T that lead to classification of static property tensors as polar or axial, time-invariant (-i) or time-change (-c) are shown to be connected by orientation considerations. The connection finds expression in the dynamic phenomenon of gyrotropy in certain, symmetry determined, crystal classes. In particular, the degeneracies of forward and backward waves in optically active crystals arise from the covariance of the wave equation under space-time (PT) reversal.
Optics (physics.optics)

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