By Herbert Spohn
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2004
Online Publication Date:August 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511535178.001
Physical theories, while devised to model a particular range of phenomena, are evidently linked in a hierarchical fashion. It is this structure which keeps fascinating me. In statistical mechanics, my scientific home-town, the link between atomic and macroscopic properties is one central issue. There we are taught that the emergence of a more restricted theory from a more general one has a richer structure than merely letting some parameter tend to infinity. I understood at some point, by accident, that similar issues appear in the dynamics of classical charges coupled to the Maxwell field. Since I could not find a satisfactory discussion in the literature, I decided to write up my own account. The theory so covered is the classical electron theory, a subject which is commonly regarded as settled with some modest revival through astrophysical applications. On the other hand, the quantized version of this theory is more lively than ever through the amazing advances in atomic physics and quantum optics. It thus seemed to me a welcome opportunity to expand my enterprise and to cover also nonrelativistic quantum electrodynamics, stressing its classical counterpart more than is done usually.
The research which has led to this book goes back about even years and in part much longer. I am grateful for the constant help from my collaborators Volker Betz, Brian Davies, Rolf Dümcke, Detlef Dürr, Christian Hainzl, Masao Hirokawa, Fumio Hiroshima, Frank Hövermann, Matthias Hübner, Valery Imaikin, Sasha Komech, Markus Kunze, Joel Lebowitz, József Lőrinczi, Robert Minlos, Gianluca Panati, and Stefan Teufel. In this list I also include Michael Kiessling for many illuminating observations. In addition I thank him for a careful reading of a draft of the book.