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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  11,140 Ratings  ·  343 Reviews

Famous the world over for the creative brilliance of his insights into the physical world, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the nonscientist. QED--the edited version of four lectures on quantum electrodynamics that Feynman gave to the general public at UCLA as part of the Alix G. Mautn
Paperback, 158 pages
Published October 21st 1988 by Princeton University Press (first published 1985)
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Nov 22, 2008 Manny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, it's too late, but that makes you do it better. You probably imagine that this book is a physics text. Well, it is, but that that's not what it really is. Really, it's a love letter to a dead woman. Feynman says in his introduction that his friend Alix Mautner had always wanted him to explain quantum electrodynamics to her so that she could understand it, and he'd never gotten around to doing that. Now it was too late. But, somehow, you can see that that only made him want to do it, n ...more
Roy Lotz
I love this area of physics and I think it’s wonderful: it is called quantum electrodynamics, or QED for short.

I love this book and I think it’s wonderful: it is called QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, or QED for short.

I feel as though I’ve been searching for this book for a long time, and now I’ve finally found it. In scarcely 150 pages, Feynman takes you inside the logic of this famously obscure subject. What was before unintelligible is breezy in Feynman’s hands. What had befor

I took this photo when I was about half way through the book. It shows a picture of a CD [click to enlarge]. It's been illuminated by an ordinary office lamp and the flashlight from my camera. I knew about this "rainbow" effect for a long time, but I didn't know exactly how it is created. This book gives some answers.

To write a successful book like QED (short for Quantum Electro-Dynamics) two prerequisites are required: 1) The author must know a great deal about the subject matter, and 2) He mu
You could call me a science groupie. I put on Cosmos while I clean the house, snatch up Michio Kaku's books like they won't be there tomorrow, know all the words to every Symphony of Science song ever, and follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter--but that doesn't mean I know the first thing about real science. I couldn't solve a linear algebraic equation even if the world depended on it (sorry, world). Instead, I revere famous physicists from afar while most women my age drool over movie stars lik ...more
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter is an outstanding book on a subject that is often overlooked or glossed-over in many popular physics books. Feynman does a deep dive on Quantum Electrodynamics: a theory that deals not only with the various interactions between light and matter, but which can be applied to every area of physics with the exception of gravitation and nuclear physics.

The theory of QED is fascinating, both in its explanatory power and its elegance. Using only a handful of
May 16, 2012 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, sciences

Ce livre propose de vulgariser la théorie scientifique la plus exacte dont nous disposons avec laquelle il est possible de modéliser la lumière, la matière et leurs interactions réciproques, à savoir la mécanique quantique. Développée au cours du siècle précédent, elle se fonde sur des principes qui brusquent le sens commun, comme la dualité onde-corpuscule ou le principe de superposition, car il n'est plus possible de s'aider d'analogies à partir de notre expérience pour en rendre compte sans p
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Sep 07, 2008 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
It's all arrows, man. All about arrows. Physics is not a subject I have a terribly good grasp on mainly because my eyes glaze over at the sight of advanced mathematical equations, however Feynman is a pretty great at making the complex subjects of particle physics and quantum mechanics intelligible to the layest of laypersons. Fortunately I also read this with able-minded people who translated the math into clearer ideas which of course opened things up to broader philosophical speculation--some ...more
Jose Moa
Apr 26, 2016 Jose Moa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, physics
Wonderful,Feynman is a genius of popularization,without a mathematical expression has achieved the goal of give the rigurous quantum electrodinamics fundaments of geometric and physical optics,is to say,refraction,refraction index,reflexion, difraction ,converging lenses,classic Fermats principle of minimun time in path light and so on.

He uses arrows to represent complex numbers in complex plane,with its modules and phases and uses sums and products of histories in the propagation of the photon
Dec 22, 2013 Duncan rated it it was amazing
QED is a book about quantum electrodynamics, which may sound complex, but with Richard Feynman teaching, its much easier to learn. This book covers basically what quantum electrodynamics is--the interaction of light with charged particles. However instead of advanced mathematics and complex words, Feynman uses the famous Feynman diagrams and other visualizations to explain things. This is a great read for anyone interested in physics, and if you fall into that category, you should read other Fey ...more
May 13, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This weekend just passed my flatmate's boyfriend was visiting. Being the inquisitive sort, at one point he asked me if I could explain the main results of my PhD thesis to him in terms he would understand. To my eternal shame my knee-jerk response was "No." But a few moments later I was to be found scrawling on a napkin, explaining rational points on curves, density arguments, counting functions, and concluding by using the word "generalise" far more times in one sentence than I was comfortable ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Aug 11, 2012 Fraser Kinnear rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I think this is my favorite science book. This was in large part due to having Feynman's real voice in my head, as I've heard him often in recorded lectures and documentaries.

The book is transcription of a few lectures Feynman gave on Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), a branch of quantum theory he and Dirac developed. Feynman introduces a few simple rules on how electrons and photons behave (which appear to be easy-to-digest analogs for vector calculus) and then off he goes, explaining the theory a
Jimmy Ele
Oct 15, 2016 Jimmy Ele rated it it was amazing
The particle view of physics and how Richard Feynman was able to explain all of the weird ways that light behaves was a thoroughly engrossing read. The intellectual feat that was performed by this man in creating a workable mathematics for the physics behind the way that light travels, and reflects is truly amazing. Using the simple concepts of rotation, spin, frequency, and depicting it all with some simple calculations involving arrows and simple algebra gave me a sense of awe at the simplicit ...more
Derek Daigle
Sep 29, 2015 Derek Daigle rated it it was amazing
There hasn't been anybody in the history of mankind that has summed up such a complex subject as Quantum Electrodynamics with so much enthusiasm and eloquence as Feynman. You can hear his giddyness levels rise as if he were directly talking to you, and is nothing like a stale textbook simply stating facts. Quantum Physics would not be NEARLY as accessible as it is today if it weren't for this man. Einstein the prototype laid down the framework for Quantum Physics by accidentally dumping the puzz ...more
Oct 09, 2015 Sookie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
Its a subject that got glazed over when I was in Engineering and after that, a wiki entry that I frequented whenever I had questions. Feynman targets this book to, well, everyone. He holds your hand and shows how things work. Its a slow step by step process and if you invest some time, its highly rewarding and quite refreshing to be taught physics by a man who is long dead but doesn't really feel so when you read his words. You get transposed to his classroom as he explains basic concepts and th ...more
Mar 04, 2012 Remo rated it it was amazing

Esta es una de las muchas incursiones que hizo el gran Feynman en el terreno de la divulgación científica. En realidad él no escribió ninguno de sus libros de divulgación científica, sino que se adaptaron de sus ciclos de conferencias de divulgación, que, ahí sí, Feynman preparaba a conciencia. Este libro surge de una serie de cuatro conferencias que dio Feynman en UCLA (que en inglés no se dice ucla sino u-c-l-a, iusielei, dato CPI para viajeros por tierras californianas).

La electrodinámica cuá

Mar 19, 2014 Maanasa rated it it was amazing
When I first heard of the two recent quantum physics mega-events--the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle and the confirmation of the Inflation theory--I knew that these were events of massive import but I was woefully ill-equipped to understand the "why" of it. What began as a wikipedia binge of particle physics terms and definitions, became an attempt to understand the four fundamental forces, which then led me to Richard Feynman's QED. This book attempts to explain to the layperson one of t ...more
Mary-Jean Harris
This book hits all the marks for a great novel. Yes, it's a science book, but it's probably one of the best ones I've read so far. Feynman has a fun style of writing and makes these topics very easy to understand. He really captures the wonder and excitement that new things in physics can offer. Even though I knew many of the things in the book already, I had never seen them presented in this way before, as in, explaining common phenomena like reflection and diffraction with the little "arrows" ...more
Bob Nichols
In this series of short lectures, Feynman reduces (except for gravity and radioactivity) the whole of the universe to quantum electrodynamics or QED.* QED involves the relationship between photons (light) and electrons (matter), or quantum phenomena, the interaction of which (electrons emit/give up and absorb/get photons/particles of light) creates all of the atoms and elements in the universe.

Feynman uses light’s refraction to illustrate the relationship between electrons and photons. To under
Aug 17, 2016 Martin rated it really liked it
The guy that wrote the forward for the book seems to dislike Feynman from his personal experience and reputation. For example, he labels Feynman as a philanderer - which was a surprise to me as I was expecting a book more about physics than the physicist.

Feynman is confident and flamboyant in his style, which is easy and enjoyable to read. He also seems exceptionally able to put himself into the mind of a non-expert and explain things appropriately.

The book is based on 4 lectures explaining some
Nov 18, 2012 Shawn rated it liked it
My biggest mistake here was reading this in small bursts. It was helpful to have things framed in layman's terms, but I still found myself not "getting it" at times, and I think that was probably because I was only reading it in short bursts and then not taking time to make sure I went back and really understood before forging onward. I did gain new insights and understanding into many details that were unknown to me about quantum electrodynamics, including some exposure to things like gluons, m ...more
Jan 23, 2013 Siina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I first read Ottaviani's biographical comic of Richard P. Feynman and that is how I got interested in quantum electrodynamics. I'm not really good when it comes to physics (I do love math), but light and lenses I have understood and enjoyed always. Thus getting my hands on this book was wonderful!

Feynman explains quantum electrodynamics very clearly with a humorous twist. The book is logical and very well written altogether. The last chapter is the only somewhat hard part, since in that one Feyn
Dean Hamp
Jan 17, 2013 Dean Hamp rated it it was amazing
I visited my brother a long time ago, when he was working on his Ph.D. in Physics. He tossed a small, innocuous-looking book to me and said, "Read this - its a complete brain-f**k. I've been hooked ever since. QED is, by far, the best piece of non-fiction I have ever read. It takes a long time for me to work though the concepts, and, as Feynman points out, nobody (including me) (especially me) truly understands Quantum Electrodynamics. But to begin with adding 'damned little arrows' and take tha ...more
Squatting Erudite
Jan 12, 2014 Squatting Erudite rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
A masterpiece of popular science. Feynman did what most authors can only dream of... He explained extremely difficult concepts from his path integral formulation of quantum mechanics and he even made renormalization sound intuitive... and he did it all without any equations, but without hand-waving.

I feel like I really understood something... maybe that's because I'm a physicist and I know some of these things, but nevertheless I think Feynman explained everything so clearly that a layman could
فےـيےـصِےـل | Faisal
May 26, 2015 فےـيےـصِےـل | Faisal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Richard Feynman is a legend. How can someone explain something that complex in such an easy language.

I had encountered with quantum physics several times in previous books and every writer talking about how hard it is, and it turned out that they are absolutely right. I know that because I read the book very slowly and later on I even skipped some parts of the book.

Nature is simple and very perplexing at the same time; And as Feynman said "You see my physics students don't understand it... Tha
Dec 27, 2013 Zack rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-science
Having already studied some classical optics, reading about the quantum side of light was akin to eating only half a cookie--at first sweet and satisfying ("Hey, that explains the distance minimizing stuff!"), but not quite filling.

Alas, that's the nature of science popularization. If you omit math, the heart is gone, and you have to make do with the leftover shell. Feynman does the best job of leaving behind some substance that I've ever seen in such a book.

Excellent pedagogy, and some great q
Jiri Bednar
Jul 19, 2015 Jiri Bednar rated it it was amazing
This book gives you a great insight on how our universe works (sans gravity). It doesn't give you the maths required to calculate the actual probabilities, but it does give you a framework to understand the math if you decide to learn it (for example from Feynman's Lectures)
Mar 13, 2016 Yaru rated it it was amazing
I love how Feynman goes from "here are some wonderful arrows to solve all our problems" in the first three chapters to "here's the state of the rest of physics, and it's complicated" in the last. It seems that my luck on finding physics thrillers continues to hold.
Jan 27, 2014 Benjamin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
a very enlightening book that explains quantum electro dynamics a must read if your into quantum mechanics
Joseph Mirabelli
May 27, 2017 Joseph Mirabelli rated it it was amazing
I haven't written my rating for a book in a time, but my experience in QED this week was interesting enough to discuss publicly. As the young graduate physicist, the most fun challenge of the book ended up moving metaphoric language onto things that (to a young graduate physicist) are conceptually simple while describing mathematics that (still to a young graduate physicist - gonna get down on that renormalization this fall) are mostly foreign. I knew enough to get paused by the actual mechanics ...more
Apr 24, 2017 Jaza42 rated it it was amazing
In this book, Feynman explains most of Physics in the simplest language possible (but with all the gory details). It shows how much the ideas of Physics benefit from someone who understands them (up to the point Nature lets us) and tell them as they are, with no added complication or flashy language. Especially recomended for students of Quantum Physics who wanna know what they've been doing all of the while.
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Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Pr ...more
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“What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school... It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my physics students don't understand it... That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.” 241 likes
“There is a most profound and beautiful question associated with the observed coupling constant, e - the amplitude for a real electron to emit or absorb a real photon. It is a simple number that has been experimentally determined to be close to 0.08542455. (My physicist friends won't recognize this number, because they like to remember it as the inverse of its square: about 137.03597 with about an uncertainty of about 2 in the last decimal place. It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it.) Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to pi or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the "hand of God" wrote that number, and "we don't know how He pushed his pencil." We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don't know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!” 5 likes
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