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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a book about what is known
Unlike many books relating to quantum mechanics, and the strange universe that exists on the quantum scale, this book is dedicated to a subject that is known and (as far as can be said about anything relating to the quantum scale) understood.

This book does a superb job of explaining to the layman (such as myself) what quantum electrodynamics is, and restricts...
Published on 30 Jan 2007 by John Wilson

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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many little arrows and stopwatches
Feynman's "sum over histories" is one of many interpretation of quantum mechanics, and this book attempts to explain it to everyone. It's my favourite interpretation because it views light as, purely, composed of photons. Therefore, it does away with "light waves" and the "wave in what?" worry.

Feynman tries to explain the perambulations of photons using little...
Published on 4 Feb 2012 by William Shardlow


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a book about what is known, 30 Jan 2007
By 
John Wilson (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Unlike many books relating to quantum mechanics, and the strange universe that exists on the quantum scale, this book is dedicated to a subject that is known and (as far as can be said about anything relating to the quantum scale) understood.

This book does a superb job of explaining to the layman (such as myself) what quantum electrodynamics is, and restricts itself to doing just that job and doing it well.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars QED The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, 16 Feb 2011
This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
QED The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman

There are many anecdotes about Richard Feynman: he came from New York and had a strong Brooklyn accent and exuberant character to go with it. He could antagonise his more effete colleagues with his natural humanity. He was once asked what it was like to be genius. His reply was along the line of ` Well, I feel pretty dumb much of the time as I'm stuck on a problem I can't solve.' After winning the Nobel Prize in 1965 he was dubbed `the smartest man in the world', his mother's comment was, `If he's the smartest man, then God help us.' He was also a highly competent safe cracker and made crucial decisive discoveries linking defective `O' rings to the Challenger shuttle disaster

It's quite rare to get close to major figures in science, yet this is the feeling one gets from reading QED.
Richard Feynman gave these lectures as part of the first series of Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lectures. Alix and her husband were close friends of his and it was always Feynman's intention to write a series of lectures, not for his peers or students but for the intelligent, interested layperson that knows little of Theoretical Physics. So this is not a text book for a physics undergraduate but it is for those who strive to have some understanding of the exquisite mysteries and paradoxes which emerge from the subject.

Quantum mechanics, despite its esoteric reputation is one of the most successful theories in science. It explains all the cracks which appeared in classical physics in the early 20th C, such as the photoelectric effect and blackbody radiation and led to enormously powerful discoveries of such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, wave-particle duality and Planck's famous constant. This is the tiny and irreducible amount of energy known as a quanta and is the quanta in quantum mechanics.
Quantum electo-dynamics is a branch of Quantum Mechanics relating to the interactions solely of photons and electrons. Electrons absorb and emit photons - this is what they do and most importantly both behave as waves and particles. Because of their wave nature it is impossible to measure both the position and the momentum simultaneously with certainty (The Uncertainty Principle) but the probability of finding their location is what Feynman struggles to do in his work and explain in these lectures.

If a beam of light is reflected from a mirror the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection, we were told at school. `Not so,' says Feynman - the light is reflected from every possible point on the mirror, even if the light is a single photon. It is simply that the probability of it using the direct and shortest path is greatest. Although he does not mention it explicitly, this is the superposition of a photon whereby a single photon can take many different positions at the same time. Feynman goes into fascinating detail of how to calculate these probabilities using little arrows. These have become known as `Feynman arrows', the direction of which relates to the time, and hence position in its wave cycle as it reaches its target. Imagine a bicycle wheel with a ruler attached from the hub to the rim and a direct path taken to a mirror. When the wheel reaches the mirror the ruler will be at some angle to the road. However, if a slightly different and hence longer path were taken then the angle would be different when the wheel reaches the mirror. Photons behave in a similar manner except their frequencies are considerably greater to those of a rotating bicycle wheel. A typical frequency of a photon is in the order of a million billion Hz., with a corresponding wavelength in nanometres, for an electron it is <1nm.
If many of these little arrows are calculated and then put head to tail and a line drawn from the tail of the first one to the head of the last and then this line is measured, then the probability of finding that a photon has taken that route is given by squaring the length of the line This is a basic rule peculiar to Quantum Mechanics and is known as the `Born rule'. In the macroscopic classical world in which we live, to calculate the probability of a number of events you would multiply and individual probabilities, but in the microscopic world of quantum mechanics they are squared - this is one of the many mysteries of the subject.
So, we can say nothing with certainty of the behaviour of a particular photon - whether it went this way or that, only the probability of its behaviour.

He continues his survey with the interaction of electrons with photons. This is altogether more complex. Electrons, like photons have the dual nature of particles and waves, they have rest-mass whereas photons do not. (photons are bosons and electrons are fermions). He uses little diagrams, this time to demonstrate the interaction of photons with electrons. These are space-time graphs showing the particle's path through both space and time and show the possibility of electrons travelling backwards in time to absorb or emit a photon. He creates a picture of the complexity of the multi-dimensional calculations needed to resolve these mammoth probabilities.

The final lecture deals with the interactions of more massive elementary particles such as protons neutrons and their constituents, quarks, muons and neutrinos. He shows how new particles cam be predicted by constructing grid diagrams with known properties but with gaps where new particles may lie.

This is fine book written with passion and conviction by a man utterly absorbed and thoroughly expert in his field. It is not an easy book and hence not a gentle read. He puts highly complex material into very simple language giving the impression that you now have some understanding of these peculiar and sometimes bizarre aspects of Nature which are often paradoxical and contrary to common sense. As a scientific communicator Richard Fenyman is superb.

A.O'Connell
February 2011
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 29 Jun 2011
By 
Joe (Cambridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This is, quite simply, 150 pages on how the world works at the particle level. Feynman writes in such a way that makes it impossible not to be drawn in, and the reader will learn so much. The level of prior Physics knowledge required is not massive - I currently study A-Level Physics (just did my AS Level), and though that helped, it's not essential.

This along with all other Feynman books is essential. I would reccomend that if you have not already read Feynman's excellent 'Six Easy Pieces' you order that along with QED and read it first. I then challenge you not to read any more Feynman, as he is that good.

Buy it.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars QED loud and clear, 12 July 2005
This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
I know little about physics and upon reading this book i gained a clear understanding of QED and it pushed me into the right direction to find out more about the world of quantum mechanics.
A recommeded read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good an explanation as you could ever hope to find, 13 Aug 2013
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
I've read quite a few physics book, in particular a few introducing quantum mechanics. Whilst the subject never fails to enthrall me, I've found that authors' explanations can sometimes be long winded and dreary (e.g. Brian Cox - The Quantum Universe), however this book manages to maintain interest for the whole length. Whether it be the relatively short size or Feynman's witty and conscientiously explanatory writing style, this book manages to do two things: educate the reader quite a lot about particle physics and quantum theory, and also be highly entertaining, even amusing at times - this is something I have never observed in a physics book before.

This collection of lectures defies its age, and if you are an amateur who wants to learn and also to be mildly entertained, them you need look no further.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the master, 23 July 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
In this book, written for the non-technical, Feynman illustrates with a breathtaking boldness and clarity how common processes (reflection & motion of photons and electrons to name only 3) are in reality far stranger than we think.
Feynman writes not so much to surprise (which he certainly does) but with a passionate desire that we the readers follow what he is saying. This is a book for those who are curious as to what makes the world tick, even if they already have some knowledge of the quantum world. I did not find this an easy read (the concepts are too alien) but it was most rewarding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Richard P Feynman), 23 July 2013
By 
Mr. P. Harvey "Phil" (Cornwall, UNITED KINGDOM) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
I first encountered this series of books, written by Richard P Feynman, in my local book retailer and I was surprised at their size. Despite the nature of their subject, they are barely a couple hundred pages in length. Usually scientific books are much thicker volumes. But when one realises these books were written from notes derived for student presentations by Feynman, then size doesn't really matter. I am more inclined to purchase a 'thin' book than a 'thick' book because apart from being cheaper to buy and easier to carry, it should be an easier book to read. Doubtless, size is a marketing ploy but it means these books are affordable to a great many more people.

The information these books contain, often illustrated by original drawings by the author, help to convey some quite complex theories. These theories maybe right or they maybe wrong but they serve to illustrate the thoughts of a 'genius' whom many professionals believe rivalled Einstein in terms of his vision of how the universe works. Feynman was a controversial, colourful, some say eccentric theoretical physicist who cared little for convention and left an indelible mark in understanding science.

I purchased 3 books in this series and I purchased 3 more for a friend's birthday. Doubtless I will purchase other books in the same series when I have time to read them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "clear", comprehensive and often funny, 11 Jan 2013
This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Richard Feynman surprises us and also makes us giggle in this already old pop science book.

Feynman now deceased succeeds perfectly in explaining complicate problems in a simple and clear manner to ignorants like me.
the point is not to understand everything but to grasp an understanding of the various problems, their solutions and unanswered questions.

The book is quite old and quite a lot of progress has been made since Feynman days.

One of the great force of this book is the power of pedagogy of the author, his capacity in making you understand complex issues is highly enjoyable.

Please note that this book is more of a conference paper than a traditional science book, this has probably upset a couple of readers which have expressed themselves quite clearly giving bad reviews.

I loved this book and you will probably will as well if you make a little effort of focus and patience.

4 stars only as a good book it is, I always feel there is a bit of inflation with positive reviews for popular science and physic books. :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - But not an easy read, 2 May 2014
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This is an interesting book providing you like - and know a little about - physics.
It is written with enthusiasm for the subject which is often infectious.
A bit tough for a general reader like me (a mere high school maths teacher) - but the book is short and concise - and I found that I got a lot more from a second read of the material.
I suppose things have moved on a little from when Mr Feyman wrote this book (based on lectures he was giving) - but a lot of good solid stuff in the book which is still relevant.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple explanation to the complicated world around us, 23 Sep 2000
By 
B. W. Cockerill "Brian Cockerill" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This book is the first of its kind that I have read, however this was not a setback. The consise detail into which Richard Feynman delves into is very easy to follow. There are many diagrams and extra captions to guide your understanding of the topic. This book is ideal for someone interested in pursuing the subject and worth the money!
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QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science)
QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) by Richard P Feynman (Paperback - 29 Mar 1990)
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