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Classical Field theory and Special relativity:

Elijah Cavan, University of Waterloo 

Quantum Mechanics:

Prof Gleb Gribakin, Queen’s University Belfast 

Quantum Field Theory:

Prof Neil Lambert, King’s College London 


6th - 11th Jan, 2021

Winter School on Quantum Field Theory

This Winter school will be delivered online via Zoom and participants will be selected based on the application form below. Preference will be given to Undergraduate students interested in pursuing research career in mathematics and physics. Lectures will initially cover background needed for quantum field theory i.e. classical field theory, special relativity and quantum mechanics. Final lecture will  lead to Quantum Field Theory .This School is aimed primarily at undergraduate physics and mathematics students but will also consider Master's and PhD students.

Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is the mathematical and conceptual framework for contemporary elementary particle physics. It is also a framework used in other areas of theoretical physics, such as condensed matter physics and statistical mechanics. If you wanted to answer the question of what’s truly fundamental in this Universe, you’d need to investigate matter and energy on the smallest possible scales. If you attempted to split particles apart into smaller and smaller constituents, you’d start to notice some extremely funny things once you went smaller than distances of a few nanometers, where the classical rules of physics still apply. On even smaller scales, reality starts behaving in strange, counterintuitive ways. We can no longer describe reality as being made of individual particles with well-defined properties like position and momentum. Instead, we enter the realm of the quantum: where fundamental indeterminism rules, and we need an entirely new description of how nature works. But even quantum mechanics itself has its failures here. They doomed Einstein’s greatest dream — of a complete, deterministic description of reality — right from the start. Here’s why.

Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including quantum chemistry, quantum field theory, quantum technology, and quantum information science. Quantum mechanics differs from classical physics in that energy, momentum, angular momentum, and other quantities of a bound system are restricted to discrete values (quantization), objects have characteristics of both particles and waves (wave-particle duality), and there are limits to how accurately the value of a physical quantity can be predicted prior to its measurement, given a complete set of initial conditions (the uncertainty principle).Quantum mechanics is essential for understanding the behavior of systems at atomic length scales and smaller. If the physical nature of an atom were solely described by classical mechanics, electrons would not orbit the nucleus, since orbiting electrons emit radiation (due to circular motion) and so would quickly lose energy and collide with the nucleus. This framework was unable to explain the stability of atoms. Instead, electrons remain in an uncertain, non-deterministic, smeared, probabilistic wave–particle orbital about the nucleus, defying the traditional assumptions of classical mechanics and electromagnetism.

A classical field theory is a physical theory that predicts how one or more physical fields interact with matter through field equations. The term 'classical field theory' is commonly reserved for describing those physical theories that describe electromagnetism and gravitation, two of the fundamental forces of nature. Theories that incorporate quantum mechanics are called quantum field theories. A physical field can be thought of as the assignment of a physical quantity at each point of space and time. For example, in a weather forecast, the wind velocity during a day over a country is described by assigning a vector to each point in space. Each vector represents the direction of the movement of air at that point, so the set of all wind vectors in an area at a given point in time constitutes a vector field. As the day progresses, the directions in which the vectors point change as the directions of the wind change.


The first field theories, Newtonian gravitation and Maxwell's equations of electromagnetic fields were developed in classical physics before the advent of relativity theory in 1905, and had to be revised to be consistent with that theory. Consequently, classical field theories are usually categorized as non-relativistic and relativistic. Modern field theories are usually expressed using the mathematics of tensor calculus. A more recent alternative mathematical formalism describes classical fields as sections of mathematical objects called fiber bundles.

The theory of special relativity plays an important role in the modern theory of classical electromagnetism. First of all, it gives formulas for how electromagnetic objects, in particular the electric and magnetic fields, are altered under a Lorentz transformation from one inertial frame of reference to another. Secondly, it sheds light on the relationship between electricity and magnetism, showing that frame of reference determines if an observation follows electrostatic or magnetic laws. Third, it motivates a compact and convenient notation for the laws of electromagnetism, namely the "manifestly covariant" tensor form. Maxwell's equations, when they were first stated in their complete form in 1865, would turn out to be compatible with special relativity. Moreover, the apparent coincidences in which the same effect was observed due to different physical phenomena by two different observers would be shown to be not coincidental in the least by special relativity. In fact, half of Einstein's 1905 first paper on special relativity, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," explains how to transform Maxwell's equations.


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