- Quantum electrodynamics
Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is a relativistic
quantum field theoryof electrodynamics. QED was developed by a number of physicists, beginning in the late 1920s. It basically describes how light and matter interact. More specifically it deals with the interactions between electrons, positronsand photons. QED mathematically describes all phenomena involving electrically charged particles interacting by means of exchangeof photons. It has been called "the jewel of physics" for its extremely accurate predictions of quantities like the anomalous magnetic momentof the electron, and the Lamb shiftof the energy levels of hydrogen. [ Richard Feynman, 1985. " [http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0691024170 QED: The strange theory of light and matter] " (chapter 1, page 6, first paragraph). Princeton Univ. Press.]
The word 'quantum' is
Latin, meaning "how much" (neut. sing. of quantus "how great"). [ Online Etymology Dictionary] The word 'electrodynamics' was coined by André-Marie Ampèrein 1822. [Grandy, W.T. (2001). "Relativistic Quantum Mechanics of Leptons and Fields", Springer.] The word 'quantum', as used in physics, i.e. with reference to the notion of count, was first used by Max Planck, in 1900 and reinforced by Einstein in 1905 with his use of the term "light quanta".
Quantum theory began in 1900, when
Max Planckassumed that energy is quantizedin order to derive a formula predicting the observed frequency dependence of the energy emitted by a black body. This dependence is completely at variance with classical physics. In 1905, Einstein explained the photoelectric effectby postulating that light energy comes in quanta later called photons. In 1913, Bohr invoked quantizationin his proposed explanation of the spectral linesof the hydrogenatom. In 1924, Louis de Broglieproposed a quantum theory of the wave-like nature of subatomic particles. The phrase "quantum physics" was first employed in Johnston's "Planck's Universe in Light of Modern Physics". These theories, while they fit the experimental facts to some extent, were strictly phenomenological: they provided no rigorous justification for the quantization they employed.
quantum mechanicswas born in 1925 with Werner Heisenberg's matrix mechanicsand Erwin Schrödinger's wave mechanicsand the Schrödinger equation, which was a non-relativistic generalization of de Broglie's(1925) relativistic approach. Schrödinger subsequently showed that these two approaches were equivalent. In 1927, Heisenberg formulated his uncertainty principle, and the Copenhagen interpretationof quantum mechanics began to take shape. Around this time, Paul Dirac, in work culminating in his 1930 monograph finally joined quantum mechanics and special relativity, pioneered the use of operator theory, and devised the bra-ket notationwidely used since. In 1932, John von Neumannformulated the rigorous mathematical basis for quantum mechanicsas the theory of linear operators on Hilbert spaces. This and other work from the founding period remains valid and widely used. Quantum chemistrybegan with Walter Heitlerand Fritz London's 1927 quantum account of the covalent bondof the hydrogen molecule. Linus Paulingand others contributed to the subsequent development of quantum chemistry.
The application of quantum mechanics to fields rather than single particles, resulting in what are known as quantum field theories, began in 1927. Early contributors included Dirac,
Wolfgang Pauli, Weisskopf, and Jordan. This line of research culminated in the 1940s in the quantum electrodynamics (QED) of Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson, Julian Schwinger, and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, for which Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. QED, a quantum theory of electrons, positrons, and the electromagnetic field, was the first satisfactory quantum description of a physical field and of the creation and annihilation of quantum particles.
QED involves a
covariantand gauge invariant prescription for the calculation of observable quantities. Feynman's mathematical technique, based on his diagrams, initially seemed very different from the field-theoretic, operator-based approach of Schwinger and Tomonaga, but Freeman Dysonlater showed that the two approaches were equivalent. The renormalizationprocedure for eliminating the awkward infinite predictions of quantum field theorywas first implemented in QED. Even though renormalization works very well in practice, Feynman was never entirely comfortable with its mathematical validity, even referring to renormalization as a "shell game" and "hocus pocus". (Feynman, 1985: 128)
QED has served as the model and template for all subsequent quantum field theories. One such subsequent theory is
quantum chromodynamics, which began in the early 1960s and attained its present form in the 1975 work by H. David Politzer, Sidney Coleman, David Grossand Frank Wilczek. Building on the pioneering work of Schwinger, Peter Higgs, Goldstone, and others, Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinbergand Abdus Salamindependently showed how the weak nuclear forceand quantum electrodynamics could be merged into a single electroweak force.
Physical interpretation of QED
In classical optics, light travels over all allowed paths and their interference results in
Fermat's principle. Similarly, in QED, light (or any other particle like an electronor a proton) passes over every possible path allowed by apertures or lenses. The observer (at a particular location) simply detects the mathematical result of all wave functions added up, as a sum of all line integrals. For other interpretations, paths are viewed as non physical, mathematical constructs that are equivalent to other, possibly infinite, sets of mathematical expansions. According to QED, light can go slower or faster than c, but will travel at velocityc on average [Richard P. Feynman QED:( QED (book)) p89-90 "the light has an amplitude to go faster or slower than the speed "c", but these amplitudes cancel each other out over long distances"; see also accompanying text] .
Physically, QED describes charged particles (and their
antiparticles) interacting with each other by the exchange of photons. The magnitude of these interactions can be computed using perturbation theory; these rather complex formulas have a remarkable pictorial representation as Feynman diagrams. QED was the theory to which Feynman diagrams were first applied. These diagrams were invented on the basis of Lagrangian mechanics. Using a Feynman diagram, one decides every possible path between the start and end points. Each path is assigned a complex-valued probability amplitude, and the actual amplitude we observe is the sum of all amplitudes over all possible paths. The paths with stationaryphase contribute most (due to lack of destructive interferencewith some neighboring counter-phase paths) — this results in the stationary classical path between the two points.
QED doesn't predict what will happen in an experiment, but it can predict the "probability" of what will happen in an experiment, which is how it is experimentally verified. Predictions of QED agree with experiments to an extremely high degree of accuracy: currently about 10−12 (and limited by experimental errors); for details see
precision tests of QED. This makes QED one of the most accurate physical theories constructed thus far.
Near the end of his life,
Richard P. Feynmangave a series of lectures on QED intended for the lay public. These lectures were transcribed and published as Feynman (1985), , a classic non-mathematical exposition of QED from the point of view articulated above.
Mathematically, QED is an
abelian gauge theorywith the symmetry group U(1). The gauge field, which mediates the interaction between the charged spin-1/2 fields, is the electromagnetic field.The QED Lagrangianfor a spin-1/2 field interacting with the electromagnetic field is given by the real part of
Dirac matrices;:: a bispinorfield of spin-1/2particles (e.g. electron- positronfield);::, called "psi-bar", is sometimes referred to as Dirac adjoint;:: is the gauge covariant derivative;:: is the coupling constant, equal to the electric chargeof the bispinor field; :: is the covariant four-potentialof the electromagnetic field;:: is the electromagnetic field tensor.
To begin, substituting the definition of "D" into the Lagrangian gives us:::
Next, we can substitute this Lagrangian into the
Euler-Lagrange equationof motion for a field:::to find the field equations for QED.
The two terms from this Lagrangian are then:::
Substituting these two back into the Euler-Lagrange equation (2) results in:::with complex conjugate:::
Bringing the middle term to the right-hand side transforms this second equation into:::
* J.M. Dudley and A.M. Kwan, "Richard Feynman's popular lectures on quantum electrodynamics: The 1979 Robb Lectures at Auckland University," American Journal of Physics Vol. 64 (June 1996) 694-698.
* [http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/1965/feynman-lecture.html Feynman's Nobel Prize lecture describing the evolution of QED and his role in it]
* [http://www.vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8 Feynman's New Zealand lectures on QED for non-physicists]
* [http://daarb.narod.ru/qed-eng.html On quantization of electromagnetic field]
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