Quantum Field Theory (Series of posts)

(This is a ‘page’, but it should be considered an ‘article’. It is frozen in time.)

In the 1990s my fields of expertise were laser physics, optics, high-temperature superconductivity, and condensed matter physics in general. Though I had taken advanced lectures in Quantum Statistics. I admit I never made the conceptual leap from the utilization of so-called Second Quantization as it is used in many-particle theory to the way Quantum Field Theory is used in fundamental particle physics today.

Motivated by books and article about the Higgs particle, I decided to (re-)learn Quantum Field Theory, just for the fun of it.

Update: I haven’t added anything to this list for some time. This is probably because I did not find a way to ‘popularize’ renormalization, or because I noticed that I would rather prefer to blog about a peculiar pick of things that I ‘find interesting’, based on my background, rather than pretending I am able to do a good popular introduction. For example, the theoretical explanations why electrons enter the peculiar quantum state of superconductivity is closely related to how the Higgs field ‘gives’ elementary particles mass. It just took me an embarrassingly long time to recognize that, as I learned about QFT from a non-relativistic solid-state physics perspective. Perhaps I should try again to blog about a ‘popular’ way to introduce superconductivity, using that infamous rubber lattice image – electrons exchanging a virtual phonon (quantized lattice vibration) when one electron ‘feels’ the deformation of the lattice caused by the other.

For all my posts on physics (typically more experimentally-oriented) see the main Physics page.

Electron diffraction patterns

[Last edited 2016-12-03 – added some sort of conclusion]

List of postings in the series:

Review of Robert Klauber’s excellent book: Student Friendly Quantum Field Theory.

A bit of path integrals and symmetries, introduced by lengthy ramblings on metaphors in physics: Learning Physics, Metaphors, and Quantum Fields.

Since my post on phase space was appreciated nearly only by physicists and mathematician, I have tried again – starting from a metaphor concerned with Austrian politics: Hyper-Jelly – Again. Why We Need Hyperspace – Even in Politics.

I tried to explain Quantization using an uncalled for detour through phase space, pop-sci chaos theory memes and indulging in statistical mechanics: On the Relation of Jurassic Park and Alien Jelly Flowing through Hyperspace.

May the Force Field Be with You: Primer on Quantum Mechanics and Why We Need Quantum Field Theory is a summary of what is popularized often, wave-particle etc., but I add some field theory at the end – and I start from a very down-to-earth field.

Space Balls, Baywatch and the Geekiness of Classical Mechanics. Why I believe that classical mechanics is as geeky as Quantum Theory – just view it through the lenses of an alternative, more spooky, mathematical representation.

And Now for Something Completely Different: Quantum Fields! The trailer.

Articles antedating the series – related to it though:

Quantum Field Theory or: It’s More Than a Marble Turned into a Wiggly Line. A brief summary of the differences between Quantum Mechanics (think: Schrödinger’s Cat and Wave-Particle-Dualism) and why we need QFT.

Is It Determinism if We Can Calculate Probabilities Exactly? Quick primer on interpretations of quantum mechanics – and why I consider it problematic to use ‘philosophical terms’ in physics.

Sniffing the Path (On the Fascination of Classical Mechanics) Trying to demonstrate that classical mechanics is geekier than you think, borrowing terminology from Richard Feynman.

Are We All Newtonians? How intuition may fail us, even when dealing with alleged simple classical mechanics.


  1. Michael Gildiner says:

    I came across Klauber’s book on the net when I was trying to get a grasp of QFT on my own, and he was still in the process of writing the book. I can attest that this is an unparalleled way of entering into this field. As another reviewer said, he seems to anticipate your questions and mis-understandings. The appeal to physical intuition reminds me of the Feynman lectures. A great educational achievement.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks for your comment! I fully agree with you! In his lectures on QFT David Tong (I have linked them on the resources page) compared Steven Weinberg’s book on QFT – that Weinberg wrote as a top expert in the field – with Weinberg’s book on GR – that he wrote when learning GR himself. The latter was an educational gem according to Tong and the former way over beginner’s heads – so it could be beneficial if a book is not written by a tenured professor with long-term experience as a researcher in the field but by somebody who is mainly an educator (That’s how I understood Klauber’s position – you don’t find much about him on the net.)

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