Resolution of the abraham-minkowski dilemma

Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Feb 19;104(7):070401. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.070401. Epub 2010 Feb 17.


The dilemma of identifying the correct form for the momentum of light in a medium has run for a century and has been informed by many distinguished contributions, both theoretical and experimental. We show that both the Abraham and Minkowski forms of the momentum density are correct, with the former being the kinetic momentum and the latter the canonical momentum. This identification allows us to explain why the experiments supporting each of the rival momenta gave the results that they did. The inclusion of dispersion and absorption provides an interesting subtlety, but does not change our conclusion.