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Sean Carroll

Guest Post: Nathan Moynihan on Amplitudes for Astrophysicists

11 May 2017, 22:40 UTC
Guest Post: Nathan Moynihan on Amplitudes for Astrophysicists
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

As someone who sits at Richard Feynman’s old desk, I take Feynman diagrams very seriously. They are a very convenient and powerful way of answering a certain kind of important physical question: given some set of particles coming together to interact, what is the probability that they will evolve into some specific other set of particles?
Unfortunately, actual calculations with Feynman diagrams can get unwieldy. The answers they provide are only approximate (though the approximations can be very good), and making the approximations just a little more accurate can be a tremendous amount of work. Enter the “amplitudes program,” a set of techniques for calculating these scattering probabilities more directly, without adding together a barrel full of Feynman diagrams. This isn’t my own area, but we’ve had guest posts from Lance Dixon and Jaroslav Trnka about this subject a while back.
But are these heady ideas just brain candy for quantum field theorists, or can they be applied more widely? A very interesting new paper just came out that argued that even astrophysicists — who usually deal with objects a lot bigger than a few colliding particles — can put amplitude technology to good use! And we’re very fortunate ...

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