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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

With a new introduction by A. Zee
Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's new introduction places both Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4746-4
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction to the 2006 Edition
    (pp. vii-xx)
    A. Zee

    The story of how we came to know light makes for one gripping drama, complete with twists and turns and reversals of fortune.

    The photon is the most visible of all elementary particles: place yourself in a dusty room with one small window open on a sunny day and watch a multitude of the little buggers hurrying across the room. Newton quite naturally thought that light consisted of a stream of particles (“corpuscles”), but already he had some doubts; even in the seventeenth century, the diffraction of light could be readily observed. Eventually, diffraction and other phenomena appeared to show...

  2. Foreword
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    Leonard Mautner

    The Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lectures were conceived in honor of my wife Alix, who died in 1982. Although her career was in English literature, Alix had a long and abiding interest in many scientific fields. Thus it seemed fitting to create a fund in her name that would support an annual lecture series with the objective of communicating to an intelligent and interested public the spirit and achievements of science.

    I am delighted that Richard Feynman has agreed to give the first series of lectures. Our friendship goes back fifty-five years to our childhood in Far Rockaway, New York....

  3. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    Ralph Leighton
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-35)

    Alix Mautner was very curious about physics and often asked me to explain things to her. I would do all right, just as I do with a group of students at Caltech that come to me for an hour on Thursdays, but eventually I’d fail at what is to me the most interesting part: We would always get hung up on the crazy ideas of quantum mechanics. I told her I couldn’t explain these ideas in an hour or an evening—it would take a long time—but I promised her that someday I’d prepare a set of lectures on...

  5. 2 Photons: Particles of Light
    (pp. 36-76)

    This is the second in a series of lectures about quantum electrodynamics, and since it’s clear that none of you were here last time (because I told everyone that they weren’t going to understand anything), I’ll briefly summarize the first lecture.

    We were talking about light. The first important feature about light is that it appears to be particles: when very weak monochromatic light (light of one color) hits a detector, the detector makes equally loud clicks less and less often as the light gets dimmer.

    The other important feature about light discussed in the first lecture is partial reflection...

  6. 3 Electrons and Their Interactions
    (pp. 77-123)

    This is the third of four lectures on a rather difficult subject—the theory of quantum electrodynamics—and since there are obviously more people here tonight than there were before, some of you haven’t heard the other two lectures and will find this lecture almost incomprehensible. Those of you who have heard the other two lectures will also find this lecture incomprehensible, but you know that that’s all right: as I explained in the first lecture, the way we have to describe Nature is generally incomprehensible to us.

    In these lectures I want to tell you about the part of...

  7. 4 Loose Ends
    (pp. 124-152)

    I am going to divide this lecture into two parts. First, I am going to talk about problems associated with the theory of quantum electrodynamics itself, supposing that all there is in the world is electrons and photons. Then I will talk about the relation of quantum electrodynamics to the rest of physics.

    The most shocking characteristic of the theory of quantum electrodynamics is the crazy framework of amplitudes, which you might think indicates problems of some sort! However, physicists have been fiddling around with amplitudes for more than fifty years now, and have gotten very used to it. Furthermore,...