quantum mechanics

Why does time have a direction?

To create energy from information you would need to break the second law of thermodynamics — that's impossible in the real world, but could theories that do break it shed light on why nature is the way it is?

Are there objective chances in the world?

If chemistry makes you think of white lab coats and green liquids then think again. This year's Nobel prize goes to three researchers who "took chemical experiment into cyberspace".

You may have heard of quantum theory and you probably know what a field is. But what is quantum field theory? This article traces the development of quantum electrodynamics in the first half of the 20th century. Hair raising difficulties, heroic struggle and illustrious characters — this story has it all!

This is the third article in our four-part series exploring quantum electrodynamics. After struggling with a theory plagued by unwieldy infinities an ingenious trick put QED back on track.

This is the last article in a four-part series exploring quantum electrodynamics. After a breakthrough that tamed QED in theory, the stick-like drawings known as Feynman diagrams, policed by a young Freeman Dyson, made the theory useable.

In February this year we were lucky enough to interview Freeman Dyson at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, USA. Dyson is now 89 and still does physics every day in his first floor office at the Institute. Here is an edited version of our interview that we hope conveys his generous nature, wit and intellect.

Space is the stage on which physics happens. It's unaffected by what happens in it and it would still be there if everything in it disappeared. This is how we learn to think about space at school. But the idea is as novel as it is out-dated.

Would you stake your fortune on a 100 to 1 outsider? Probably not. But what if, somewhere in a parallel universe, the straggling nag does come in first? Would the pleasure you feel in that universe outweigh the pain you feel in the one in which you've lost? Questions not dissimilar to this one occupy physicists and for entirely respectable reasons.

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