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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  7,982 ratings  ·  220 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 ...more
Paperback, 158 pages
Published October 21st 1988 by Princeton University Press (first published 1985)
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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
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
Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that leaves you gasping for breath, almost unable to believe that an author could achieve such a thing. This is that kind of a book.

Feynman starts by promising to, in four slim chapters, derive the fundamental properties of light and matter. Not describe, but derive, starting from the basic axioms of his newly developed theory of quantum electrodynamics, the theory for which he won the Nobel in Physics, and which is a part of the Standard Model, the most a
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
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
I recall reading a comment by a physics professor, or it might have been a physics graduate, to the effect that the only popular quantum physics book that both preserves a modicum of accuracy and is accessible to the layperson is "QED" by Richard Feynman. My formal education in physics doesn't extend beyond the GCSE level, so I'm in no position to judge this book's accuracy directly. However, I do know that Feynman is widely considered not just one of the most brilliant physicists but also one o ...more
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
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
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
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
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

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

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
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
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
a very enlightening book that explains quantum electro dynamics a must read if your into quantum mechanics
John Woods
Renowned physicist Richard Feynman had promised for years to explain quantum electrodynamics to Alix Mautner, whose degree was in English literature. When she died, he finally sat down and put together this sequence of four lectures — and he did it, somewhat miraculously — without any of the mind-bogglingly complex equations that are so intimidating even to the most math-hardened of graduate students. Indeed, Feynman explains quantum electrodynamics purely conceptually, making me wonder why we d ...more
Elliott Bignell
This review refers to the German translation.

I read this book 25 years ago in English, making it both a review of material already covered and a useful exercise in German reading. Once again, it no way disappoints. Feynmann must surely take a place on my list of intellectual heroes, as his unique genius is not merely to have made decisive contributions to the theory of quantum electrodynamics ("QED"), but to have had the gift of explaining it in an accessible way.

The world of QED is weird. There
Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) made easy

The author is one of the greatest physicists of 20th century, and highly regarded as one of the best instructors of physics, but the reader must have some knowledge of science and strong interest in physics, and appreciate optical phenomenon; reflection of light, refraction, etc. Reading this book at first may be boring, but reading for second or third time gives you a good idea about the theory and help you understand the elegance with which the author has
Taylor Cline
Holy crap. Feynman attempts to write this book for a lay audience but I nearly have a PhD in physical chemistry and I struggled through it. But wow it was incredible when I got it. I don't think I'll ever tire of learning more about light because it is so fascinating and unlike anything in our universe.
I don't think I would recommend this book for anyone that doesn't have a basic understanding of both classical mechanics and quantum mechanics.
Richard Phillips Feynman - what more can I say about this guy that hasn't been said already through the years? Feynman was an incredibly original physicist (fellow Nobel laureate Julian Schwinger called him someone who marched to his beat) who dazzled and impressed not only his esteemed peers but also managed to carve himself a special place in the public eye.

Feynman is that unique and rare breed of scientist who can successfully explain very complicated ideas in simple terms so non-scientists
Procyon Lotor
Solita divulgazione di classe di Feynman, non solo un premio nobel per la fisica, pure un grande scrittore, s perch esistono pure i saggi, le raccolte di articoli, i trattati, i manuali, le enciclopedie eccetera. (su anobii si tende a trascurare la scrittura non fiction, suo uso principale). L'elettrodinamica quantistica, intrinsecamente probabilistica e legata alla lunghezza d'onda, viene spiegata meravigliosamente bene con pochi semplici attrezzi grafici, (*) quasi intuitivi, che conducono a u ...more
Feynman is absolutely brilliant and shows it, probably intentionally, by making one of the most confusing and unintuitive subjects of human knowledge easily accessible. He has a very modest and unpretentious style and seems to revel in the simplicity to which he can reduce the most complex ideas. I would recommend him as quite possibly the most ideal writer on quantum physics for the layman.
Richard Wood
Excellent. Didn't understand a word, but enjoyed the ride.
Maanasa Kona
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
While the physical properties of light and matter are fascinating in and of themselves, this is an unparalleled gateway to the idea of nature. A thoroughly empirical/Baconian discussion leads Feynman to conclude: "this doesn't make any sense" and "we don't need to understand 'why' nature does these things, just that she does."

His conclusions in chapter 4: that 99% of what we observe is the relationship of electrons and photons and that we understand them well, but that the remaining 1% is such a
Gianni Costanzi
Jun 23, 2014 Gianni Costanzi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Particle Physics and Physics/Science as general topics
Ho comprato questo libro dopo aver attraversato un percorso nella fisica divulgativa con i libri di Brian Greene (La trama del cosmo. Spazio, tempo, realtà, L'universo elegante. Superstringhe, dimensioni nascoste e la ricerca della teoria ultima e La realtà nascosta. Universi paralleli e leggi profonde del cosmo, Sean Carroll (La particella alla fine dell'universo. La caccia al bosone di Higgs e le nuove frontiere della fisica e Jim Baggott Il bosone di Higgs. L'invenzione e la scoperta della «p ...more
A great read for those who are curious about how quantum electrodynamics works. It is a very accurate description and although it is explained as simply as possible, it still requires a basic understanding of math, in particular graphs of distance(space) and time.
Giorgio Bonvicini
Un fantastico libro nel quale Feynman, in quattro brevi capitoli, ci conduce lungo un percorso logico e comprensibile a tutti nel bizzarro mondo dell'elettrodinamica quantistica.
Partendo dalle basi e arrivando alle ultime teorie più azzardate, Feynamn riesce perfettamente a far comprendere quanto la fisica moderna sia bizzarra e allo stesso tempo logica, assurda, ma estremamente precisa.
Benché Feynman abbia uno stile di scrittura semplice ed efficace, con molto pochi termini tecnici astrusi e in
The story of Quantum Electrodynamics (the quantum theory of light and electrons!) told by its daddy!
Geo Collins
As Richard Feynman is my favourite physicist, and QED is one of my favourite fields of physics, I was so excited to read this book. I bought it a few months ago, but due to reading other things I didn't started reading it until two days ago. It consists of four of Feynman's lectures on quantum electrodynamics, and as well as being funny in places, it was so easy to read and understand. I've heard various opinions on his 'Six Easy Pieces' and 'Six Not so Easy Pieces' and so I was apprehensive abo ...more
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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
More about Richard P. Feynman...
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character What Do You Care What Other People Think? Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics By Its Most Brilliant Teacher The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman The Feynman Lectures on Physics

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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.” 200 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!” 2 likes
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