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on 26 February 2007
One of the best physics reads i have come across, well written, well put together, and best of all, it makes sense, assisted by well annotated diagrams on nearly every concept in the book, you can really get a sense of these being a collection of lectures, its as if Feynman is talking to you himself.

Must get for any physics buff.
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on 30 January 2007
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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on 16 February 2011
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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on 29 June 2011
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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on 12 July 2005
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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on 23 October 1997
A beautiful part of physics is conveyed without having to learn some rather deep mathematics. Feynman is one of the wonders in using diagrams to explain difficult things. This book shows how. It is captured from lectures and has a friendly feel as he talks up to his audience.

I found this book an inspiration later when trying to convey some electromagnetic ideas to someone without the math background. The diagramming techniques work well. Without Feynman and this book I may have given up. But if he can explain QED to mere mortals, certainly more of us can convey difficult concepts (far less difficult than QED) to educated adults.
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on 13 August 2013
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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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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on 23 July 2002
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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on 11 January 2013
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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