When I was in high school, I wanted to be a physicist. There were so many mysteries about the Universe that I wanted the answers to. In particular, I was intrigued by the speed limit that nature imposes of 300,000 km/second, time travel, and particle physics.
I got side tracked into computers, which has been its own adventure, but I’ve always wondered about physics and I read Science and Science News along with half-a-dozen science related websites.
This last weekend, I got a cold, so I decided it would be a good time to read a book. I selected QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard P. Feynman, because I have great admiration for Feynman and because he was one of the chief architects of Quantum Electrodynamics, which is what QED stand for.
You don’t have to be a genius or a physicist to read this book. It’s based on a set of lectures Feynman prepared to try to explain QED to lay persons using normal language. QED is the most thoroughly tested theory in human history. For just one number involved in the theory, the magnetic moment of an electron, we know it so such precision that if it were a distance stretched from NY to LA, 3000 miles, the uncertainty would be less than the width of a human hair.
QED describes the interactions between photons and electrons. Those interactions are responsible for all but a tiny fraction of the phenomena we know of. But QED doesn’t take into account gravity or relativity, nor does it play well with other theories that deal with gravity or relativity.
But, if you really want to understand why light reflects from surfaces, how partial reflection works, and what all those physicists spend their time doing, then this is the book for you.