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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985)

by Richard P. Feynman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,736364,294 (4.2)26
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 introduction places Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.… (more)
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English (30)  Hungarian (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
As Dr. Feynman said, "Why are you going to sit here all this time, when you won't be able to understand wheat I am going to say? It is my task to convince you NOT to turn away because you don't understand it. You see, my physics students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. NOBODY DOES." (Emphasis added)

And that about sums it up. After a few futile attempts to read and understand what professor Feynman was saying, I finally just read it as though I was attending his lecture while sitting in the back row. Whatever fragments I picked up helped me fill in the gaps to my heretofore fragmented understanding of the subject. I learned some names, some theoretical ideas, and some vague notion as to how this might someday all fit together. And then I walked out of the lecture (put the book down) shaking my head and made myself a gin & tonic to celebrate the occasion.

Thank you Dr. Feynman! Four stars for the effort! ( )
  Renzomalo | Jul 23, 2022 |
I do not understand why my chemist/avant-garde artist/Alaskan fisherman friend told me to read this. Probably for the same reason I don't get his art. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
I do not understand why my chemist/avant-garde artist/Alaskan fisherman friend told me to read this. Probably for the same reason I don't get his art. ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
In typical Feynman fashion, this book skates on the edge of hard science and popular science, thereby presenting physicist-level experimentation and results to the widest possible audience. It is obvious that Feynman was passionate about QED (quantum electrodynamics; an unfortunate name, states Feynman). His goal is to do two things: (a) to present QED as "our best example of a good [scientific] theory" and (b) to describe the strange theory of "the interaction of light and electrons" (152, 4). Strange is an understated adjective to describe how photons and electrons interact, as is made clear through the example, chiefly, of the partial reflection problem. Over and over, Feynman sets us up for what common sense would tells us is going to happen, given a certain experiment, and then proves the contrary (or, the completed unexpected). At times, it can seem that these particles are aware of each other and...of us! Some of the major discoveries since Newton are: electrons looked like particles at first, and photons looked like waves at first; but now we find that both objects behave sometimes like waves and sometimes like particles. Further, it "appears that all the 'particles' in Nature--quarks, gluons, nutrinos, and so forth...behave in this quantum mechanical way" (85). The two facts that struck me most were that (a) all particles have an anti-particle; and (b) when the two collide, they annihilate each other and form other particles (98). So, if matter and anti-matter collide, annihilation occurs, and a photon is emitted. Yes, the quantum world is quite strange, and for that all the more intriguing. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
This weekend just passed my flatmate's boyfriend was visiting. Being the inquisitive sort, at one point he asked me if I could explain the main results of my PhD thesis to him in terms he would understand. To my eternal shame my knee-jerk response was "No." But a few moments later I was to be found scrawling on a napkin, explaining rational points on curves, density arguments, counting functions, and concluding by using the word "generalise" far more times in one sentence than I was comfortable with.

He seemed to follow my haphazard ramblings which is always enough to leave one chuffed. It's no secret to the science community that its biggest failing is an inability to communicate with and engage the public. The more esoteric the science, the trickier it is to convey it in terms that are both accurate and interesting. And, outside of pure mathematics, it doesn't get a great deal more esoteric than quantum mecahnics. So Richard Feynman's QED is laudable for, if nothing else, being about as understandable as is possible with this subject. There were times that the text lost me, but after giving it some thought I realised in each case that it was because I was expecting the quantum world to make sense, and to paraphrase my old Physics teacher: if quantum mechanics starts making sense, then you've stopped understanding it.

Feynman's abilities as a scientific orator are pretty well known—one of my favourite videos on Youtube is a two-and-a-half minute video of Feynman sitting in a chair explaining how a train stays on the tracks. Seriously. Feynman's writing skills are apparently just as good, but I've not read any of his other books and this one is actually the edited transcriptions of four of his lectures, so his speaking prowess proves more useful here. And as if being fascinating, self-deprecating, and witty wasn't enough, he also manages to be quite touching. The lectures were the inaugural set in a series dedicated to Alix Mautner, an English major and long time friend of Feynman to whom the physicist had promised to explain quantum electrodynamics in terms she could understand. Sadly she died before he managed to do so, but the lectures here are, as he says, the ones he prepared for Alex, but that he could no longer give just to her. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard P. Feynmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leighton, RalphPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mautner, LeonardForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zee, AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 the subject.
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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 introduction places Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.

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In questo libro, con stupefacente chiarezza, un grande fisico ci spiega come tutto ciò che percepiamo dipenda da accadimenti naturali che violano ogni aspettativa del senso comune. La via scelta è la seguente: guidare, come in un vero tour de force, ogni testa pensante negli impensabili meandri dell'elettrodinamica quantistica (abbreviata nella sigla QED del titolo). E - ciò che più conta per il lettore non specialista - Feynman procede mantenendo sempre la spiegazione in stretto contatto con l'esame di varie esperienze fisiche, così da farci entrare, in certo modo, nella mente dello scienziato che le osserva (e, per certi fenomeni, la prima mente che osservava fu proprio la sua).
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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