Serge Haroche

The Science of Light From Galileo’s Telescope to Quantum Physics Serge Haroche, Nobel Prize in Physics Publication date : March 30, 2023

Odile Jacob Publishing to release The Science of Light, a captivating journey of scientific discovery by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Serge Haroche.

The Science of Light will be available for purchase worldwide in digital formats starting on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at odilejacob.com and on all retail platforms.


Serge Haroche is professor emeritus at the Collège de France, a member of the Académie des Sciences, a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering methods of manipulating and measuring individual quantum systems. He has taught at Paris VI University, the École Polytechnique, the École Normale Supérieure, Harvard University, and Yale University.



Serge Haroche

Nobel Prize in Physics

The Science of Light

From Galileo’s Telescope to Quantum Physics


Light has fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. Elucidating its properties over the centuries has been an adventure intimately linked with the birth and development of modern science; it has led, after many surprising twists, to the theories of relativity and quantum physics which have profoundly changed our view of the world at the microscopic and cosmic scales alike. Placing his own career in a rich lineage of scientific discovery, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Serge Haroche offers a literally enlightening account of what we know about light today, how we learned it, and how that knowledge has led to countless inventions that have revolutionized daily life.

From Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Feynman, from early measurements of the speed of light to cutting-edge work on quantum entanglement, Haroche takes a detailed and personal look at light’s role in how we see and understand the universe. The Science of Light is at once a colorful history of scientific inquiry and a passionate defense of “blue sky research”—investigations conducted not in pursuit of a particular goal, but out of curiosity and faith that today’s abstract discoveries may well power tomorrow’s most incredible possibilities.

A uniquely captivating book about the thrill of discovery.







CHAPTER 1: The dawn of a vocation  21

First passions: from mathematics to astronomy  23

Introduction to modern physics  35

Shut up and calculate!  47

When atoms and photons are spinning tops: optical pumping  50

To see the world as something rich and strange  65

An apprenticeship in trust and freedom  77

Promises of the laser  81

Beginnings in research  85

First trip to America and return to my first passion  90

“Blue sky” research  93


CHAPTER 2: Reflections in the Observatory square  97

Two instruments at the origins of the scientific revolution: the refracting telescope and the pendulum clock  100

Measuring the speed of light to survey the universe  106

The science of light becomes quantitative: Descartes and Dioptrics  113

Nature works by the shortest and simplest ways: Fermat’s principle  118

Huygens and the wave theory of light  124

Newton, light particles, and color  134

Measuring the shape of the Earth  143

A passion for precision  156

Basic science, business, power, and technology  161


CHAPTER 3: Daydreams in Faraday’s laboratory  165

Young v. Newton  169

Light is polarized  175

Fresnel and the triumph of the waves  177

Combining vectors and interfering waves  181

A rotating vibration: circular polarization  187

Light illuminated by mathematics  193

Back to the speed of light  198

From the salons of the Enlightenment to Faraday’s laboratory  208

Birth of the concept of field  218

The confluence of light, electricity, and magnetism  223

Some mysteries disappear but others remain  229


CHAPTER 4: The two clouds of Lord Kelvin  239

Michelson and the puzzle of the aether  245

Einstein comes on the scene: thought experiments  249

A relativistic change of perspective  261

Space mixes with time  266

Mass and energy combine: E = mc2  272

Einstein’s “happiest” idea comes from Galileo again  283

Gravitation and curvature of space-time  291

Relativistic predictions and postdictions  299


CHAPTER 5: Light reveals the strange world of quanta  311

The ultraviolet catastrophe  314

Light between waves and particles  318

Quanta are generalized to matter  322

Gregarious photons and atoms that mimic them  329

The veil is lifted on matter waves  334

Wave function, quantum states,  and the superposition principle  339

The particle family expands  342

A fundamental identity  347

The Pandora’s box of quantum physics  352

From classical to quantum: a dialogue across centuries between Fermat, Maupertuis, and Feynman  355

A journey in orders of magnitude  360

The quantum scene: individual objects  or statistical ensembles?  365

Young’s double slit revisited  368

Measurement, complementarity, and uncertainty relations  371

Debates around imaginary experiments  380

Quantum entanglement  389

Schrödinger’s cat and the classical–quantum boundary  399


CHAPTER 6: Lasers, photons, and giant atoms  407

An atom dressed by photons  408

Introduction to lasers in California  417

Beating the Doppler effect  425

Quantum beats  434

Californian anecdotes  439

First major international conference  442

The terra incognita of giant atoms  445

The birth of cavity quantum electrodynamics  456

Research and teaching on both sides of the Atlantic  463

The laser cooling revolution  468

Trapped ions and quantum jumps  479


CHAPTER 7: Taming Schrödinger’s cat  489

The photon box  494

The circular atom  498

Quantum ping-pong  504

Quantum knitting  507

How to see photons without destroying them  510

Life and death of a photon  514

Back to Young’s moving slit experiment  523

Counting photons and observing quantum jumps  526

Quantum field radiography  538

Schrödinger’s cats of light  547

Exploring the quantum-to-classical boundary  559

Toward a quantum computer: utopia or future reality?  570

Feynman’s dream: quantum simulation  575

Spooky action at a distance, quantum cryptography,  and quantum teleportation  578

Quantum metrology and optical clocks  582


POSTFACE: Science and truth  593


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Some works to complement the reading of this book  599