My Bookshelf / Natural Science from the Observation Deck

Book Review ~ The World of Seen, But Not Seen

Originally published October 23, 2012

QED:  The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Dr. Richard Feynman.  Available for less than $10.00

A little late this week, but we’re still here!  This week I thought I would review a little book that I have treasured for years, QED. You might notice, if you spend much time in my little corner of the world, that I love to explore various fields of scientific study. This is due in part because our universe is so amazing and in part because I feel that what we learn from the natural world tells us many fundamental things about ourselves. My husband is a physicist. When I first met him a whole new world of thought was opened up to me. QED was the first places he sent me to begin my journey into the conceptual study of Quantum Electrodynamics.

The author of this little book, the late Richard Feynman, was a Nobel Prize laureate in physics in 1965. He was a member of the team that developed the atom bomb and served on the panel that investigated the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Although one of the world’s most brilliant physicists, he was also a well loved professor at Caltech. Neil Bohr would seek him out often because of his unassuming nature and ability to play devil’s advocate with any scientific mind of the time. His immersion in the topics of mathematics and physics gave him the clarity in his teaching that could speak to the uninitiated. This book is an edited version of his presentation for the Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lecture series given at UCLA.

So, what is so terribly amazing about this particular book? Well, with little or no mathematics and diagrams that walk you through each and every step, Feynman takes you into the world of quantum mechanics where nothing happens as we expect. Time travels whatever way it chooses, particles can be here and there at the same time, or nowhere at all. As a teacher, Feynman does not talk down to his audience, nor develop not-quite-right metaphors to lead the blind into the semi-gray darkness. The presentation is straightforward and just as applicable to the adventuresome layperson as it is to a physics major.  A delightful way to get introduced to some of the aspects of the strange and wonderful universe we call home.

So, tell me, what kinds of things do you like to explore? What burning questions do you have that seem like rumors and not real science? Do you have a favorite series, book, or teacher? Let me know! Always happy to incorporate things from my audience.

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