## By P. A. M. Dirac

## What is quantum physics? Put simply, it’s the physics that explains how everything works: the best description we have of the nature of the particles that make up matter and the forces with which they interact.

## Quantum physics underlies how atoms work, and so why chemistry and biology work as they do. You, me and the gatepost – at some level at least, we’re all dancing to the quantum tune. If you want to explain how electrons move through a computer chip, how photons of light get turned to electrical current in a solar panel or amplify themselves in a laser, or even just how the sun keeps burning, you’ll need to use quantum physics.

## Abstract

The new quantum theory, based on the assumption that the dynamical variables do not obey the commutative law of multiplication, has by now been developed sufficiently to form a fairly complete theory of dynamics. One can treat mathematically the problem of any dynamical system composed of a number of particles with instantaneous forces acting between them, provided it is describable by a Hamiltonian function, and one can interpret the mathematics physically by a quite definite general method. On the other hand, hardly anything has been done up to the present on quantum electrodynamics. The questions of the correct treatment of a system in which the forces are propagated with the velocity of light instead of instantaneously, of the production of an electromagnetic field by a moving electron, and of the reaction of this field on the electron have not yet been touched. In addition, there is a serious difficulty in making the theory satisfy all the requirements of the restricted principle of relativity, since a Hamiltonian function can no longer be used. This relativity question is, of course, connected with the previous ones, and it will be impossible to answer any one question completely without at the same time answering them all. However, it appears to be possible to build up a fairly satisfactory theory of the emission of radiation and of the reaction of the radiation field on the emitting system on the basis of a kinematics and dynamics which are not strictly relativistic. This is the main object of the present paper. The theory is noil-relativistic only on account of the time being counted throughout as a c-number, instead of being treated symmetrically with the space co-ordinates. The relativity variation of mass with velocity is taken into account without difficulty. The underlying ideas of the theory are very simple. Consider an atom interacting with a field of radiation, which we may suppose for definiteness to be confined in an enclosure so as to have only a discrete set of degrees of freedom. Resolving the radiation into its Fourier components, we can consider the energy and phase of each of the components to be dynamical variables describing the radiation field. Thus if E

*r*is the energy of a component labelled*r*and Î¸*r*is the corresponding phase (defined as the time since the wave was in a standard phase), we can suppose each E*r*and Î¸*r*to form a pair of canonically conjugate variables. In the absence of any interaction between the field and the atom, the whole system of field plus atom will be describable by the Hamiltonian H ═ Î£*r*E*r*+ Ho equal to the total energy, Ho being the Hamiltonian for the atom alone, since the variables E*r*, Î¸*r*obviously satisfy their canonical equations of motion E*r*═ — ∂H/∂Î¸*r*═ 0, Î¸*r*═ ∂H/∂E*r*═ 1.
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It will also be shown that the Hamiltonian which describes the interaction of the atom and the electromagnetic waves can be made identical with the Hamiltonian for the problem of the interaction of the atom with an assembly of particles moving with the velocity of light and satisfying the Einstein-Bose statistics, by a suitable choice of the interaction energy for the particles. The number of particles having any specified direction of motion and energy, which can be used as a dynamical variable in the Hamiltonian for the particles, is equal to the number of quanta of energy in the corresponding wave in the Hiamiltonian for the waves. There is thus a complete harmony between the wave and liglit-quantum descriptions of the interaction. We shall actually build up the theory fromrl the light-quantum point of view, and show that the Hamiltonian transforms naturally into a form which resembles that for the waves. The mathematical development of the theory has been made possible by the author's general transformation theory of the quantum matrices.: Owing to the fact that we count the time as a c-number, we are allowed to use the notion of the value of any dynamical variable at any instant of time.

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