John Baez and Michael Weiss
Did you ever wonder "What the heck is a photon, anyway?"
Well, this question quickly gets you into pretty deep waters. Not only
do you need to understand Maxwell's equations and quantum mechanics, you need
to understand how they fit together into a marvelous theory
called "quantum electrodynamics".
These webpages won't teach you quantum electrodynamics. But they'll give you
a little nudge in the right direction.
- John Baez: Things that really really exist
- Michael Weiss: A trivial exercise
- Cinematic Interlude
- John Baez: A rather odd question
- John Baez: A six-step program
- John Baez: A Gaussian bump
- Michael Weiss: Hmm, homework on the weekend!
- John Baez: Ever wonder why they call it ``phase space''?
- John Baez: Perhaps the nicest Gaussian of all
- John Baez: The most enlightening set of names
- Michael Weiss: Roll over Beethoven
- John Baez: A Gaussian bump with a corkscrew twist!
- Michael Weiss: Now for a bit of straightforward grinding
- John Baez: My lysdexia has a variety of origins
- John Baez: Michael has roamed ergodically
- Michael Weiss: Okay, thanks, Baker, Campbell, and
- John Baez: Messing around with the vacuum energy, eh?
- Michael Weiss: Dangerous signs of normality
- Michael Weiss: Vacuum energy, source of all of humanity's
future energy needs
- John Baez: To quote a student of Segal...
- John Baez: A lower bound on slickness
- John Baez,
Michael Weiss: In Boston, you should definitely concentrate on driving
- Michael Weiss:
- John Baez:
Fourier transform land ... it's much less crowded there
Michael Weiss: Flooding the spacetime plain
Michael Weiss: Anschaulichkeit, Abscheulichkeit
Appendix: Notational Conventions
Tensor product and direct sum
- About this document ...
List of Figures:
And guess what! The above stuff is just the first part of
a two-part conversation between Michael Weiss and John Baez.
The second part has not been made into webpages yet, but you can read it
as a PDF file - or as GIF
files, which are like a poor man's HTML.
Can't get enough?
For the original conversation in its raw entirety, read the threads
on sci.physics.research entitled
Shmotons and later
might also want to look at the thread entitled Photons, Schmotons:
After reading this stuff, you might want to try my introduction to renormalization.
Maybe someday all these expositions will fit together into a unified,
elegant whole... but not now!
This stuff is available in lots of formats - but alas,
part 2 is not yet available in HTML, only GIF.
If you create HTML for part 2, I'll give you a nice present!
I'll also reward anyone who creates HTML of Part 1 that includes
the Greek letters.
The PDF and Postscript have much nicer typesetting than the HTML files.
There is also a tar file containing this entire website.
If you place this in some directory and untar it there, it
will create a subdirectory "photon" and put all the files there.
There's also a gzipped tar file if you prefer that:
But actually I'm lying: these tar files contain everything
on this website except the tar files themselves, since that would
make them too large... infinitely large, in fact.
Who did what
Michael Weiss did the really hard work: he
created the LaTeX files and turned part 1 into HTML as well.
He tried converting these notes from LaTeX into HTML
using latex2html, but he had problems, so the version you
see is something of a compromise.
Barry Brent kindly volunteered to turn part 2
into GIF format. More recently,
cleaned up the figures and included them in the LaTeX files.
What binds us to space-time is our rest mass,
which prevents us from flying at the speed of light,
when time stops and space loses meaning.
In a world of light there are neither points nor moments of time;
beings woven from light would live "nowhere" and
only poetry and mathematics are capable of
speaking meaningfully about such things.
© 2005 John Baez and Michael Weiss