If you haven’t read Feynman’s QED yet, you simply have to. It’s one of those landmark experiences that a human must go through to say to himself, on his deathbed, that he made his best shot at understanding the world. My favorite part of Quantum Electrodynamics is the sheer room it leaves for the full use of imagination and possibility. The theories and predictions get better and better the more you stretch your grasp of the possible. The famous example in the book is that of light bouncing off a mirror. If you limit yourself to the idea that light simply rebounds with the angle of incidence equaling the angle of reflection, you will get answers that are accurate in the main, but that fail to predict many of the stranger things we can do with mirrors. Only by taking all possibilities into account, factoring in their probabilities, and cancelling out terms according to the rules of Quantum Electrodynamics can you get an accurate view of what happens when particles and photons interact. The more possible outcomes you calculate in, the more you can do to actually figure out what could bring the most far-fetched results to fruition. By scraping strips off a mirror, you can eliminate outcomes that normally cancel out desired oddball results and thus create a mirror that entirely disobeys the classic angle of incidence formula in every physics textbook. This opens the door to a realm of creativity that has always been there in the pursuit of science and math, but never so tangibly and alluringly as in Feynman’s words.
QED still reigns as the most accurate picture of the world that we have, and it rests on the principle that nothing is so confining than common sense causality. Which is of course very useful for causing problems for giant anthropomorphic harps.
– Count Dolby von Luckner