Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams by David Kaiser

By David Kaiser

Winner of the 2007 Pfizer Prize from the historical past of technology Society. Feynman diagrams have revolutionized approximately each point of theoretical physics because the center of the 20th century. brought through the yank physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88) quickly after international struggle II as a way of simplifying long calculations in quantum electrodynamics, they quickly received adherents in lots of branches of the self-discipline. but as new physicists followed the tiny line drawings, in addition they tailored the diagrams and brought their very own interpretations. Drawing Theories Apart lines how generations of younger theorists discovered to border their learn when it comes to the diagrams—and how either the diagrams and their clients have been molded within the process.

Drawing on wealthy archival fabrics, interviews, and greater than clinical articles from the interval, Drawing Theories Apart makes use of the Feynman diagrams as a way to discover the improvement of yank postwar physics. by means of targeting the methods younger physicists discovered new calculational abilities, David Kaiser frames his tale round the crafting and stabilizing of the elemental instruments within the physicist's kit—thus providing the 1st publication to stick with the diagrams after they left Feynman's palms and entered the physics vernacular.

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Extra resources for Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics

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Klein, “Paper tools” (2001); and U. Klein, Experiments, Models, Paper Tools (2003). For examples drawn from the life sciences, see Clarke and Fujimura, Right Tools for the Job (1992). 10 chapter one Priestley argued, scientists build up these skills, not (or not only) by reading elaborate written instructions for the instruments’ use, but by practicing with the tools day in and day out: I would not have any person, who is altogether without experience, to imagine that he shall be able to select any of the following experiments, and immediately perform it, without difficulty or blundering.

See also the one-page memorandum by Guiseppe Coccioni, 19 Dec 1950, in the same folder. Bethe and Coccioni had difficulty gaining the visitor’s visa for Borsellino because of the recently enacted McCarran Act, which blocked visas to former members of such groups as the Fascist Party 12 chapter one apart and who were not well acquainted personally. A few years earlier, in the summer of 1947, Enrico Fermi had complained that he was unable to make sense of one of Bethe’s own recent papers, and hence could not reproduce and extend Bethe’s calculation.

All hope was not lost, at least at first: Heisenberg, Pauli, Jordan, and the rest knew they could approximate this infinitely complicated calculation 1 because the measured charge of the electron, e, is so small: e 2 ∼ 137 , in appropriate units. The electrons’ charge governed how strong their interactions would be with the force-carrying photons: every time the electrons traded one more photon back and forth, the equations describing the exchange picked up one more factor of this small number, e 2 .

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