QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

| May 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights and charisma, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult science concepts to the general public. That’s exactly what he does in his famous book “QED: The Strange Theory of Light” about quantum electrodynamics. This book is actually one of the first physics books I read and even though I didn’t understand some parts I really enjoyed it. So let’s see what’s it all about


Basic Info

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691125759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691125756
  • Average Amazon Customer Review:4.7 out of 5 stars (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:  #1 in Optics and Quantum Physics (See Top 100 in Books)


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 is well known as one of the greatest and most charismatic physicists of the 20th century.


About the Book

Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. In essence, it describes how light and matter interact and is the first theory where full agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity is achieved. Besides that QED is known for being the most accurate theory in a sense that it agrees with the experimental data with an amazing accuracy.

Richard Feynman, who is one of the main developers of QED, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on it with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger in 1965. 20 years later in 1985 he has released a series lectures for the laymen public with an aim to explain how the QED works and why it is useful. Later these lectures were released as “QED: The Strange Theory of Light”.

So the book aims at explaining the main principles of the theory for everyday readers. And knowing how quantum mechanics has a reputation of being one of the most bizarre theories of science, it’s clear that it’s a hell of a task. But Feynman does his best of using his charm and talent to explain the procedures and calculations of QED using easy-to-understand analogies. By describing the method of “calculating arrows” Feynman describes the main principles of calculating probabilities making it fun and informative at the same time.

The book is written in an easy-to-read style and it has that laid back atmosphere that Feynman pulls off in his lectures. The book has also got some simple diagrams, which work really well as a tool for explaining what’s going on in some parts of the book. But perhaps the biggest advantage is that it’s simply fun to read, which is often not the case in introductory physics books. My favourite part is when Feynman attempts explaining the double slit experiment, which, according to Feynman, holds all the information and secrets associated with quantum mechanics.

Now one of the most important questions when it comes to these introductory books is what are the pre-requisites. I wouldn’t call this a hard book, but it’s not all that easy either. Feynman aimed at the general audience with this book and for the most parts not much physics knowledge needed. However, for the best results at least high school level physics is needed.  Having that said, I would highly recommend this for everyone, even if you know nothing about physics, as it is a truly great and fun book.


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Category: Physics Books

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