Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics: The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures

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Cambridge University Press, Jul 13, 1999 - Science - 110 pages
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Developing a theory that seamlessly combines relativity and quantum mechanics, the most important conceptual breakthroughs in twentieth century physics, has proved to be a difficult and ongoing challenge. This book details how two distinguished physicists and Nobel laureates have explored this theme in two lectures given in Cambridge, England, in 1986 to commemorate the famous British physicist Paul Dirac. Given for nonspecialists and undergraduates, the talks transcribed in Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics focus on the fundamental problems of physics and the present state of our knowledge. Professor Feynman examines the nature of antiparticles, and in particular the relationship between quantum spin and statistics. Professor Weinberg speculates on how Einstein's theory of gravitation might be reconciled with quantum theory in the final law of physics. Highly accessible, deeply thought provoking, this book will appeal to all those interested in the development of modern physics.
  

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About the author (1999)

Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist, received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1942 and worked at Los Alamos, New Mexico, on the atomic bomb during World War II. From 1945 to 1950, he taught at Cornell University and became professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1950. Feynman made important contributions to quantum electrodynamics (QED) and electromagnetic interactions, such as interactions among electrons. In Feynman's approach, interactions are considered exchanges of virtual particles. For example, Feynman explained the interaction of two electrons as an exchange of virtual photons. Feynman's theory has proved to be accurate in its predictions. In 1965 the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to three pioneers in quantum electrodynamics: Feynman, Julian Schwinger, and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. Feynman was an outspoken critic of NASA for its failure to notice flaws in the design of the Challenger space shuttle, which resulted in its tragic explosion.

Born in New York City, Steven Weinberg was a high school and college classmate of Sheldon Glashow; both attended the Bronx High School of Science and Cornell University. Although Weinberg has made contributions as a theoretical physicist in cosmology, quantum scattering, and the quantum theory of gravitation, he is most widely known for his work with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam, with whom he shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics. Weinberg received a share of this honor for his formulation of the theory that unifies the relationship between the weak force and the electromagnetic force, including the capability to predict the weak neutral current. After receiving a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1957, Weinberg held postdoctoral positions at Columbia University from 1957 to 1959, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory from 1959 to 1960, the University of California at Berkeley from 1960 to 1966, Harvard University from 1966 to 1967, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1967 to 1969. He is married to a law professor, and they have one daughter.

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