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Physics | The Genesis of Feynman Diagrams

The Genesis of Feynman Diagrams

Series: Archimedes, Vol. 26

Wüthrich, Adrian

2011, XVIII, 210 p.

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  • Detailed case study showing how the development of an appropriate means of representation often involves fundamental revisions to the content
  • Historical genesis and philosophical interpretation of one of the most widely used tools in theoretical particle physics
  • Examines hitherto unpublished manuscripts by Richard P. Feynman
In a detailed reconstruction of the genesis of Feynman diagrams the author reveals that their development was constantly driven by the attempt to resolve fundamental problems concerning the uninterpretable infinities that arose in quantum as well as classical theories of electrodynamic phenomena. Accordingly, as a comparison with the graphical representations that were in use before Feynman diagrams shows, the resulting theory of quantum electrodynamics, featuring Feynman diagrams, differed significantly from earlier versions of the theory in the way in which the relevant phenomena were conceptualized and modelled. The author traces the development of Feynman diagrams from Feynman's "struggle with the Dirac equation" in unpublished manuscripts to the two of Freeman Dyson's publications which put Feynman diagrams into a field theoretic context. The author brings to the fore that Feynman and Dyson not only created a powerful computational device but, above all, a new conceptual framework in which the uninterpretable infinities that had arisen in the old form of the theory could be precisely identified and subsequently removed in a justifiable manner.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Diagrammatic induction - Dirac equation - Dyson - Elementary Particles - Feynman Diagrams - Feynman's Theory - Free propagation - Freeman - Hamiltonian - History of physics - Quantum mechanics - Richard P. Feynman - quantum electrodynamics - renormalization - succesive scattering

Related subjects » Epistemology & Philosophy of Science - Physics

Table of contents 

ContentsAcknowledgements1. Origin, use and interpretation of Feynman diagrams2 Quantum electrodynamics without Feynman diagrams3 Quantum mechanics without a Hamiltonian operator4 The Dirac equation: Feynman’s great struggle.5 Free propagation and successive scattering.6 The ?eld theoretical systematization of Feynman’s theory7 The development of a new means of representation.Appendix A Diagrammatic inductionAppendix B Synopsis of manuscripts and principal publicationsList of figuresBibliography

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