Abstract

A model-independent theorem demonstrates how a causal linear dielectric medium responds to the instantaneous spectrum, that is, the spectrum of the electric field pulse that is truncated at each new instant (as a given locale in the medium experiences the pulse). This process leads the medium to exchange energy with the front of a pulse differently than with the back as the instantaneous spectrum laps onto or off of nearby resonances. So-called superluminal pulse propagation in either absorbing or amplifying media as well as highly subluminal pulse propagation are understood qualitatively and quantitatively within this context.

© 2001 Optical Society of America

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