Dirac – quantum genius

March 27, 2009

Delighted to have just received a copy of the new biography of Paul Dirac, The Strangest Man. Apart fromthe ocassionally technical Dirac: The Man and His Work, there doesn’t appear to be much available on the life of this most eccentric of mathematical physicists.

P A M Dirac

P A M Dirac

Dirac has long been one of my maths heroes (along with Richard Feynman and G H Hardy).

I’ve struggled with his lectures on quantum mechanics and general relativity and unfamiliar as I am with the mathematics, found them strangely fascinating, in particular where Dirac in a tour de force derives fundemental physical properties from the form that certain equations take.

Of course, it was an analysis of his wave equation for an electron that led Dirac to posit the existence of the positron, the antimatter particle which was only discovered experimentally four years later in 1932.

UPDATE (June 2): An article in New Scientist magazine claims the elusive monopole, also predicted by Dirac, may have been discovered. It is only the latest in a line of claimed discoveries (such as this in 2003 – registration required), but this time round seems convincing.

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