Who is Mr. Feynman?

Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was an American theoretical physicist, widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists in his field during the second half of the XX century. He contributed to various aspects of his field, but is best known for his work in the development of the quantum electrodynamics (QED) theory, which describes the interaction between matter and light. This granted him the prestigious Nobel Prize in 1965, together with J. Schwinger and S. Tomonaga.

During his studies, he introduced various tools that became essential in the field. The best known among them are Feynman diagrams, which are a graphical way of portraying the world of particles.

A more detailed bibliography can be found e.g. on Wikipedia, while a collection of anecdotes and memories can be found in the book ‘‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! »: Adventures of a Curious Character.

What are Feynman diagrams?

Introduced in 1949, they represent the way particles talk to each other when interacting. Before this brilliant idea, physicists knew how to calculate the properties of particles, but could not visualise nor explain in simple terms what they were computing. 

In Feynman diagrams, particles are represented by lines, and the canvas on which the lines are drawn is space-time. Different lines correspond to different particles, and to each Feynman diagram is associated a natural process.

Feynman diagrams can easily explain a plethora of physical phenomena, impossible to experience in our everyday life, such as: the exchange of force-carriers in interactions, like the photon or the gluon, the concept of anti-particles, charge conservation and the equivalence of all fundamental particles.