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Space-Time Approach to Quantum Electrodynamics

Phys. Rev. 76, 769 – Published 15 September 1949
R. P. Feynman


In this paper two things are done. (1) It is shown that a considerable simplification can be attained in writing down matrix elements for complex processes in electrodynamics. Further, a physical point of view is available which permits them to be written down directly for any specific problem. Being simply a restatement of conventional electrodynamics, however, the matrix elements diverge for complex processes. (2) Electrodynamics is modified by altering the interaction of electrons at short distances. All matrix elements are now finite, with the exception of those relating to problems of vacuum polarization. The latter are evaluated in a manner suggested by Pauli and Bethe, which gives finite results for these matrices also. The only effects sensitive to the modification are changes in mass and charge of the electrons. Such changes could not be directly observed. Phenomena directly observable, are insensitive to the details of the modification used (except at extreme energies). For such phenomena, a limit can be taken as the range of the modification goes to zero. The results then agree with those of Schwinger. A complete, unambiguous, and presumably consistent, method is therefore available for the calculation of all processes involving electrons and photons.

The simplification in writing the expressions results from an emphasis on the over-all space-time view resulting from a study of the solution of the equations of electrodynamics. The relation of this to the more conventional Hamiltonian point of view is discussed. It would be very difficult to make the modification which is proposed if one insisted on having the equations in Hamiltonian form.

The methods apply as well to charges obeying the Klein-Gordon equation, and to the various meson theories of nuclear forces. Illustrative examples are given. Although a modification like that used in electrodynamics can make all matrices finite for all of the meson theories, for some of the theories it is no longer true that all directly observable phenomena are insensitive to the details of the modification used.

The actual evaluation of integrals appearing in the matrix elements may be facilitated, in the simpler cases, by methods described in the appendix.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRev.76.769

  • Received 9 May 1949
  • Published in the issue dated September 1949

© 1949 The American Physical Society

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Authors & Affiliations

R. P. Feynman

  • Department of Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

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