An Ode to Ugly Physics


The intuitive physicists were triumphant on many more occasions. Like Richard Feynman, who, from his wild imagination of virtual particles, wrote down outrageously ill-defined integral overall paths of virtual particles and fields through space and time.20 At the level of perturbation theory, that is, pretending that the quantum was infinitesimal, Feynman’s path integral is nothing more than a mathematical trick that helps with organizing calculations. In fairness, it was a damn fine trick. It helped predict the magnetic dipole moment of the electron to eleven digits, while also helping to solve difficult mathematical problems from the topological invariants of knots to the deformation quantization of Poisson manifolds.21

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Xi Yin — Inference