I'm trying to understand Mie theory. For this I'm reading the book "Absorption and Scattering of Light by Small Particles" by Bohren and Huffman.

The derivation of the formulas is fine, but I'm stuck at interpretation. I'm expecting the following:

Take a ray hitting a sphere. Then three things are possible:

a) The ray is absorbed

b) The ray is scattered

c) No interaction between ray and sphere

Let's assume the ray has unity intensity. Then some fraction of it should be absorbed, some fraction of it should be scattered, and the remaining part has no interaction with the sphere. Note that the scattered part should be given by an angle-dependent function.

I'm unable to compare this expectation with the formalism presented in the book - they talk mostly about cross-sections

So here is my question:

Can somebody please link my expectations to cross-sections?

Hopefully, this question makes sense.


Any finite object illuminated by an infinite planar wave scatters a part of its energy. The ratio of the overall scattered energy to the power density of the incoming wave has the dimensions of meter squared, and thus is described as scattering cross-section.

A large mirror has scattering cross-section A similar to its geometrical dimensions. However, in mostly transparent objects A would be less, and interestingly, in resonant objects it can be more than would be deduced from the geometry.


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