We investigate the controversy regarding violations of the Bouguer–Lambert–Beer (BLB) law for ultrashort laser pulses propagating through water. By working at sufficiently low incident laser intensities, we make sure that any nonlinear component in the response of the medium is negligible. We measure the transmitted power and spectrum as functions of water cell length in an effort to confirm or disprove alleged deviations from the BLB law. We perform experiments at two different laser pulse repetition rates and explore the dependence of transmission on pulse duration. Specifically, we vary the laser pulse duration either by cutting its spectrum while keeping the pulse shape near transform-limited or by adjusting the pulses chirp while keeping the spectral intensities fixed. Over a wide range of parameters, we find no deviations from the BLB law and conclude that recent claims of BLB law violations are inconsistent with our experimental data. We present a simple linear theory (based on the BLB law) for propagation of ultrashort laser pulses through an absorbing medium and find our experimental results to be in excellent agreement with this theory.
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