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Photons: Corpuscules of Light.
December 11, 2012 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Richard Feynman delivers a charming talk about Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics and the versatile, enigmatic photon. (SLYT - 1:17:58)
posted by loquacious (12 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

Oooh. Thanks for this!
posted by zarq at 11:33 PM on December 11, 2012

Oooh. Thanks for this!

You're welcome. This one has been sitting in an open tab for a few days and a couple of viewings (and naps) and it's pretty great.

I realize people might not have much to comment on besides "That was fascinating and/or dizzying" but it helped me understand and grasp a lot more of QM and QED than I did before, and I had a bunch of stuff wrong - and undoubtedly I still do.

But it's really cool how he walks through the onion-skin layers of classical Newtonian physics and motion, thermodynamics, atomic/particle physics, quantum particles and ties motion, velocity, electricity, magnetics and even sound and so on and connects it all the electromagnetic spectrum and photons and what photons are and do and what light actually is beyond ROYGBIV.

Like it helped me really understand the EM spectrum, because I was segmenting it into different, segmented varieties of photons rather than a continuous spectrum of the same intrinsic photon - just with different wavelengths and amplitudes.

Granted, listening to Feynman describe QED can be a bit like being sold an improbably fancy car by a wild carny but if there's anyone that can do it it's that guy.

It's also really nice to see him stammering, backtracking, correcting himself, doing mental math and powers, dropping science jokes and jabs and tangenting and otherwise thinking on his feet.

Except for gravity and/or mass and the Higgs boson/field it seems like it's darn near a 1 hour capsule summary of what we now call Grand Unified Theory and/or Unified Field Theory with hints of phonons and quasi-particles/waves.
posted by loquacious at 12:16 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love the bit where he says "This was worked out independently by 3 guys who got Nobel prizes" and then adds modestly "one of which you see here."
posted by rubber duck at 3:53 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Haha gonna watch this next, was watching this just now and not getting any of it...ever since the Higgs I've been enthralled by physics (no background) life is a shambles! Has this happened to anyone else?

Thanks loquatious!
posted by sfts2 at 5:45 AM on December 12, 2012

Can anyone explain the part about how Newton polishing lenses proves that light doesn't bounce only off of certain spots in a reflective surface? I wasn't too clear on that from the explanation Feynman gives.
posted by rubber duck at 5:59 AM on December 12, 2012

The part around 22 mins in is awesome!
posted by sfts2 at 6:08 AM on December 12, 2012

posted by Smedleyman at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2012

I couldn't find these from the original link, but I'm bad at YouTube: Parts 2, 3, and 4.
posted by fleacircus at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am the least scientific person I know but I still love all things Feynman. He makes it all so tangible.
posted by PuppyCat at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2012

Part 2, part 3, part 4, as playlists.
posted by cthuljew at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2012

Oh. Oops. I should read things before posting.
posted by cthuljew at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2012

These seem to be the lectures that got packaged into the short book QED: The strange theory of light and matter. It's a great little book, more polished than the presentation here, although this is still great for its own sake.

What I think it pretty great is that both Feynman and the audience seems to sense the comic potential of this, but both seem uncertain. A couple of Feynman's jokes miss, and more than a few of his serious statement's get laughs. Feynman's goal is to explain this stuff, so it seems to me that he glances off the natural comic role, as straightman to nature's merry prankster, but nonetheless he can't help but stumble into it.
posted by wobh at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2012

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