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Is it: The statistical variations inherent due to the discrete nature of the photon? The statistical variations inherent due to the discrete nature of the electron? The randomness caused by the photon to electron conversion process? Or is shot noise due to all 3?

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  • $\begingroup$ There are many ways of looking at shot noise. Personally, I take the third view: the randomness of the interaction process. That way I avoid thinking about the particles as little localized "bullets". $\endgroup$ – garyp Jan 21 '17 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ So all three phenomena are related? $\endgroup$ – BeamLauncher Jan 21 '17 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ I would say that they are three different ways of looking at the same thing. There are other ways of looking at shot noise, one example being as interference between the zero-point field and a generated field. Our brains can't understand QM; all we can have are metaphors for reality. But metaphors are imperfect, and different metaphors can apply to the same situation. None of them are explanations. That's what we have in the case of shot noise. None of the pictures is an explanation. They are only mental pictures to give us something concrete to imagine. $\endgroup$ – garyp Jan 21 '17 at 17:15
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It is the statistical variation due to all three. However, assuming you are collecting data from a photodetector / photodiode, your data corresponds most directly to the flow of electrons and therefore it is the variation in discrete electrons that has the final and most direct influence on the noise in your data.

This application note on shot noise measurements with low noise photodetectors explains shot-noise in more detail and the effect of quantum efficiency.

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