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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library) [Paperback]

by Richard P. Feynman, A. Zee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 24, 2006 0691125759 978-0691125756 Princeton Science Library

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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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library) + Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher + Six Not-So-Easy Pieces: Einsteinís Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time
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Editorial Reviews


"Physics Nobelist Feynman simply cannot help being original. In this quirky, fascinating book, he explains to laymen the quantum theory of light, a theory to which he made decisive contributions."--The New Yorker

"Feynman's lectures must have been marvelous and they have been turned into an equally entrancing book, a vivid introduction to QED which is leavened and enlivened by his wit. Anyone with a curiosity about physics today should buy it, not only to get to grips with the deepest meaning of quantum theory but to possess a slice of history."--Pedro Waloschek, Nature

Praise for Princeton's original edition: "Feynman simply cannot help being original. In this quirky, fascinating book, he explains to laymen the quantum theory of light."--New Yorker

Praise for Princeton's original edition:"[A]nother tour de force by the acknowledged master of clear explanation in physics."--John Roche, Times Literary Supplement

Praise for Princeton's original edition:"Feynman's lectures must have been marvellous and they have been turned into an equally entrancing book, a vivid introduction to QED which is leavened and enlivened by his wit. Anyone with a curiosity about physics today should buy it, not only to get to grips with the deepest meaning of quantum theory but to possess a slice of history."--Pedro Waloschek, Nature

Praise for Princeton's original edition: "In four conversational and breezy chapters. . . . Feynman, who himself gave the theory its most useful and powerful form, undertakes without one equation to explain QED to the generality of readers."--Philip Morrison, Scientific American

"Using clear language, many visuals, and his own Feynman diagrams, the author presents a clear introduction to the quantum theory of the inter-action of light with matter, without mathematics but with humor."--Physics Teacher

About the Author

Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. A. Zee is a Permanent Member of the Institute for Theoretical Physics and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of "Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics" and "Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell" (both Princeton).

Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Science Library
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Princeton Science Library edition (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691125759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691125756
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard P. Feynman was born in 1918 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. At the age of seventeen he entered MIT and in 1939 went to Princeton, then to Los Alamos, where he joined in the effort to build the atomic bomb. Following World War II he joined the physics faculty at Cornell, then went on to Caltech in 1951, where he taught until his death in 1988. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965, and served with distinction on the Shuttle Commission in 1986. A commemorative stamp in his name was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
272 of 278 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Feynman's best October 17, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Caveat - Be sure to read Professor Zee's introduction as well as Feynman's introduction before you read the rest of the book. More about this at the end of this review.

In my opinion this is one of the best of Feynman's introductory physics books. He does close to the impossible by explaining the rudimentary ideas of Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED) in a manner that is reasonably accessible to those with some physics background. He explains Feynman diagrams and shows why light is partially reflected from a glass, how it is transmitted through the glass, how it interacts with the electrons in the glass and many more things. This is done via his arrows and the rules for their rotation, addition and multiplication.

One reviewer has criticized this book because Feynman does not actually show how to determine the length of the arrows (the square of which is the probability of the action being considered occurring) and the how you determine their proper rotation. True, but as is stated in Feynman's introduction, this was never the intention of the book. If you want to learn how to create the arrows used in a Feynman diagram and use them to solve even the most rudimentary problem, you have to major in physics as an undergraduate, do well enough to get into a theoretical physics graduate program and then stick with the program until the second year, when you will take elementary QED. You will then have to take even more classes before you can solve harder problems. Clearly, it is not possible to do all this in a 150-page book aimed at a general audience. He does, however, give the reader a clear indication of what these calculations are like, even if you are not actually given enough information to perform one on your own.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly comprehensible July 19, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book covers four lectures that explains QED in terms of the path integral method, which was developed by the author. Needless to say, this is authoritative on this approach, but it also remarkably clear and comprehensible. Notwithstanding that, I would recommend slow and careful reading, as you may find a small sequence of statements that seem perhaps a little unjustified. Later, Feynman fronts up to some of these, and explains why he oversimplified to get things going. If you see them first, and this is not unreasonable, I believe you will get more from the text. The first lecture is a general introduction that shows how the path of the photon as a particle can be followed in terms of time-of-flight from all possible paths. The assertion is, the photon is a particle, not a wave, however there is no explanation for why there is a term that I would call the phase. The second lecture is a tour-de force and explains in terms of this particle treatment, why light reflects and diffracts, and is particularly interesting in why light behaves as if it is reflected only from the front and back of glass, whereas it is actually scattered by electrons throughout the glass. The third lecture covers electron-photon interactions, and covers Feynman diagrams and shows why QED is the most accurate theory ever proposed. The fourth lecture may seem a bit of a disappointment. The author tries to cover a very wide range of phenomena, which he terms "loose ends", and in some ways this chapter has been overtaken somewhat, nevertheless it also gives a look into Feynman's mind, and that also is well worth the price of the book. It is also here that the issue of renormalization is discussed - if you could call Feynman admitting it is "a dippy procedure" a discussion.

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130 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally understood refraction April 16, 2007
When I was a senior in high school, I asked my physics teacher why light bent when it entered a lens. He responded with an analogy about soldiers marching on a field and entering a marsh. The first soldiers entering the marsh would slow down and "bend" the column until all the soldiers were in the marsh.

The analogy made no sense to me because we were talking about light, not soldiers. He responded that light travels in waves and if I viewed the soldiers as a wave front, I could understand his analogy. I left the conversation feeling very stupid for not "getting it." and thinking the analogy had so many holes in it. For example, it didn't explain why the lens was a marsh as far as light goes.

It wasn't until I read QED that I realized I didn't get the soldier analogy because my teacher was wrong - light doesn't travel in waves, it travels in discrete little packets called photons.

In QED, Feynman opens his first chapter by saying a couple of things. First he tells you that the theory he's going to describe to you has been experimentally verified out to 10 decimal places so it's probably right. He then gives you a quick review of what matter is and then tells you "light comes in particles. Not waves, particles." No wavicles, just little bits of light. He tells you that photons go from place to place, an electron goes from place to place and the electron will sometimes either absorb or emit a photon. From that basis, the rest of the book shows how that model explains why light bends when it enters a lens, why mirrors reflect, why oil slicks show different colors, why peacock feathers iridesce along a with host of other phenomena. He also explains why light has wave-like properties despite the fact that light comes in packets.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book.
I gave it a max. rating because it explains everything. You do need to know something about Physics but the author does explain it. Read more
Published 16 hours ago by Sydney Buckley
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any Feynman library
This book gives the ideology behind the theory that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics, it is a must read for anyone interested in particle physics
Published 7 days ago by Mary Echternacht
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Not Great
Maybe I'm just saturated with Feynman, but I don't plan to reread this for awhile. Perhaps in a few years...
Published 21 days ago by Scott C Akers
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Feynman - fantastic
A must read for a clear explanation of QED for the masses with practical examples. Beautifully written and belongs on everyone's bookshelf.
Published 27 days ago by Dale Robichaud
4.0 out of 5 stars Great balance between accesibility for a broad public without...
I read from other reviews about how Feynman didn't compromise on correctness on this book/lectures. I was afraid that meant that at least some parts of the contents would be out of... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Leonardo Soto Munoz
5.0 out of 5 stars Like most really insightful books, it's short
I was recommended this book by a good friend of mine who actually worked with Feynman as well as Feynman's sister, also a brilliant scientist. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jeff Evarts
4.0 out of 5 stars QED
It is a series of lectures written for the novice. He shows how QED is thought about and how to solve simple problems. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Curt Weinstein
5.0 out of 5 stars very lucid explanation of the relation between light and matter...
Step by step Feynman explains the relationship of light and matter. Starting with simplified models of reality, later on more tuned in to the real thing matters (no pun intended)... Read more
Published 1 month ago by J.C. Maan
5.0 out of 5 stars A master physicist explains one of the most fundamental theories of...
Richard Phillips Feynman - what more can I say about this guy that hasn't been said already through the years? Read more
Published 1 month ago by Comrade_Bazarov
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple explanation of quantum physics!
Forget Heisenberg and Schrodinger for a moment. Feynman gives you a very simple framework to help you understand some of the weird behaviors of light. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nicholas
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