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Richard FeynmanPioneer in Quantum Mechanics
Written by Jaehong Min | Published. 2018.10.16 16:01 | Count : 403

You might have heard of quantum mechanics: a relatively recent and innovative field in physics. Quantum mechanics grants us so many things, including telecommunications devices and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. At the forefront of this scientific wave, theoretical physicist Richard Feynman was there. Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for quantum electrodynamics, and is seen as one of the greatest genius physicists after Albert Einstein. 

[Gwacheon National Science Museum. At the entrance of the exhibition.
Photo courtesy of Jaehong Min.]

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Feynman’s birth and 30th anniversary of his passing away, the Gwacheon National Science Museum is hosting a special exhibition showcasing Feynman’s life and findings. Since young, Feynman was quite the star student, and was well known for this in his neighborhood. At the age of fifteen, he taught himself algebra, analytical geometry, and calculus. Later on, he grew up to be a physics student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an assistant professor at Cornell University. During his time at Cornell, he focused on researching quantum electrodynamics, which was an unexplored area prior to Feynman. Along the way, there were many smaller stops across different fields, like being recruited to solve problems and produce uranium for the Manhattan Project. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1965, he was truly recognized as an icon in 20th century science. He had a series of smaller accomplishments after this, such as his hypothesis on “patrons,” which were later identified as quarks, and successfully finding the cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. Although he passed away with cancer in 1988, his legacy on science and technology will be remembered for generations to come. 

[A Feynman Diagram, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feynman_diagram.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.]

One of the most innovative and applicable concepts is the Feynman diagram. The interactions of subatomic particles, such as photons and quarks just to name a few, can be something very difficult to intuitively grasp. Feynman diagrams visually illustrate the more intricate mathematics of subatomic particle interaction. The Feynman diagram represents the potential path a subatomic particle can take. The trajectories of these particles differ depending on what type of particle it is. American physicist David Kaiser writes, "since the middle of the 20th century, theoretical physicists have increasingly turned to this tool to help them undertake critical calculations," and so "Feynman diagrams have revolutionized nearly every aspect of theoretical physics." This part of the exhibition was one of the most memorable for me. When I was reading the portion about Feynman diagrams, I wondered how one could visually picture such things that seem so abstract. I can only imagine how much time and work it would have taken to make such an abstract idea into something concrete and learnable.



Jaehong Min
11th Grade
Korea International School

Jaehong Min  student_reporter@dherald.com

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