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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter Hardcover – January 1, 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0691083889 ISBN-10: 0691083886

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This volume, constituting the printed version of the first of the Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lectures to be given periodically at UCLA, certainly gets this new series off to a flying start. World-renowned for the liveliness and creativity of his physical insights, Caltech physicist Feynman provides another of his tours de force as he clearly explains the arcane workings of quantum electrodynamics, a theory which Feynman himself helped to establish. Starting with such familiar phenomena as the reflection and refraction of light, Feynman goes on to describe in detail the interactions between electrons and light. Although the text requires more concentration to grasp than most science popularizations, things never get out of hand. A good choice for collections serving informed readers. Thomas E. Margrave, formerly with Physics & Astronomy Dept., Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"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

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Product Details

  • Series: Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lectures
  • Hardcover: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691083886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691083889
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,432 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

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a physics background and to anyone who wonders about this stuff.
You will enjoy this and quite likely a few of his other books such as, "Surely, Your'e Joking Mr. Feynman".
Aspen Logic, Inc.
Feynman had a wonderful clarity of thought, an ability to explain advanced physics, and all with a sense of humor.
Michael Wischmeyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on June 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Enigma - this term best describes QED, the notoriously non-intuitive basis of fundamental physics. But 'enigma" equally applies to this book, QED. Why is it so popular? Four lectures on quantum electrodynamics? Why would anyone, other than a physicist, rave about such a book?
Feynman cautions the audience that they may not understand what he will be saying. Not because of technical difficulty, but because they may be unable to believe it, unable to accept what he is saying. "The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as She is - absurd."
I long had this problem. I wanted to understand why, in addition to how nature works. I wanted some philosophical understanding, some underlying meaning. I have come to accept that the fundamental laws (rules, behavior, whatever) of physics are not intuitive, but are incomprehensible in terms of common sense.
To appreciate Feynman's QED lectures, you must have patience, some commitment (its not really difficult), but more than anything else you need a willingness to set aside disbelief and simply listen to a physicist talk about quantum electrodynamics. A willingness to accept that nature refuses to be understood. Analyzed, dissected, mathematically described (in a probabilistic sense), but not fundamentally understood. QED.
I am largely unsatisfied by books for laymen on quantum physics, string theory, cosmology, and the like. My background includes some physics and I find that a bit of mathematics is more helpful than a great many analogies, no matter how cleverly constructed. QED should have been disappointing. But I gave it five stars.
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77 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth James Michael MacLean on March 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
A book on physics that is entertaining? Hard to believe, but during the reading of this book I not only got a grasp on some of the fundamental concepts of Quantum Electro Dynamics, but thoroughly enjoyed the way it was explained. Feynman is a master teacher. He has the ability to take complex concepts and boil them down so that even a physics dummy can understand them. It is obvious when reading the text how complete Feynman's understanding of the material is. You know how you can read a science book and not really get what the author is trying to explain? Sometimes that comes from your own lack of intelligence, but a lot of times it's because the author wasn't totally clear about what he was writing. In this book, you really get the underlying concepts becasue Feynman's understanding of the subject is so complete. I found myself absorbing some of the QED concepts almost by osmosis.
The book is composed of 4 lectures Feynman gave at UCLA in the mid 80's.
QED is about the interaction of light and matter. Feynman starts the explanation of QED by dealing with the partial reflection of light onto 2 surfaces of glass, and uses arrow diagrams to make the explanation easy to understand.
He uses the arrow diagrams in the other lectures which continue the discussion of QED's attempt to explain the interaction of photons with matter. The last lecture deals with subatomic particles and QED's relationship to the rest of physics.
The part of the book I enjoyed most was the 3rd lecture called "Electrons and Their Interactions" which explains how electrons go from point to point in space/time.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Aspen Logic, Inc. on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
QED is your guide to the theory of Quantum Electro Dynamics which explains the interaction of light and matter. It is about a 1/4" thick and feels like it was written for the layperson to absorb without being over taxing. It isn't just another "popular science" type book because it provides an accurate explanation of the theory without being watered down by inaccurate metaphors and analogies meant to soften some difficult physics for the uninitiated. The text is a series of lectures Feynman prepared for an english teach friend of his who wanted to know about his theories but was afraid to ask (so to speak).
This book is fun to read and I highly recommend it for the scientist or (most importantly) the non-scientist on your gift list. Fear not, Feynman is the greatest teacher of science America has ever had to offer (imho). You will enjoy this and quite likely a few of his other books such as, "Surely, Your'e Joking Mr. Feynman".
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "amit_princeton" on August 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Here's a book that shows, clearly, that explaining science to a lay audience is something altogether different from "popular science". This book will not teach you buzzwords and catchphrases with which to impress your next non-physicist audience. It will not help you wow the crowds with your knowledge of "philosophical" issues of science.
What this book will do for you is give you a fascinating, lucid and yet elementary introduction to the theory of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), as told by one of the Nobel laureates whose mind it sprang from. It amazes me how much ground Feynman managed to cover in just four lectures, without assuming ANY foreknowledge of higher mathematics or physics (not even complex numbers, which are central to QED).
Every scientist who deems his work too esoteric to be digested by laymen should be made to read this. Everyone else: get this book and be prepared to learn some amazing and intuition-confounding facts about physics.
[For the record: I'm a mathematician and computer scientist, not a physicist.]
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