Extraordinary interactions between light and matter determined by anomalous weak values

Yakir Aharonov, Eliahu Cohen, Avishy Carmi, Avshalom C. Elitzur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Some predictions regarding pre-and post-selected states are far-reaching, thereby requiring validation with standard quantum measurements in addition to the customary weak measurements used so far, as well as other advanced techniques. We go further pursuing this goal, proposing two thought experiments which incorporate novel yet feasible validation methods of unconventional light-matter interactions. An excited atom traverses a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI) under a special combination of pre-and post-selection. In the first experiment, photons emitted by the superposed atom, after being hit by two laser beams, are individually counted. Despite the interaction having definitely taken place, as revealed by the atom becoming ground, the numbers of photons emitted from each arm of the MZI are predicted, at the ensemble level, to be different from those expected with standard stimulated emission. In the second experiment, the atom spontaneously emits a photon while still in the MZI. This photon later serves as a strong measurement of the atom's energy upon hitting a photographic plate. The experiment is repeated to enable an interference effect of the emitted photons. Interestingly, the latter gives the appearance that the photons have been emitted by the atom from a position much farther from the two MZI arms L and R, as if in a 'phantom arm' R′. Nevertheless, their time of arrival is similar to that of photons coming from L and R. These experiments also emphasize the key role of anomalous weak values in determining light-matter interactions. In fact, they present a straightforward realization of an entity we term counter-particles, namely pre-and post-selected states acting as if they have negative physical variables such as mass and energy. The novel verification methods we suggest for testing these predictions resemble weak measurements in some aspects, yet result from definite atomic transitions verified by the detected photons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180030
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2215
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


FundersFunder number
European Research Council
Canada Research Chairs1723/16
Israel Science Foundation1311/14


    • Light-matter interaction
    • Two-state-vector formalism
    • Weak values


    Dive into the research topics of 'Extraordinary interactions between light and matter determined by anomalous weak values'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this