quantum field theory, study of the quantum mechanical interaction of elementary particles and fields. Quantum field theory applied to the understanding of electromagnetism is called quantum electrodynamics (QED), and it has proved spectacularly successful in describing the interaction of light with matter. The calculations, however, are often complex. They are usually carried out with the aid of Feynman diagrams (named after American physicist Richard P. Feynman), simple graphs that represent possible variations of interactions and provide an elegant shorthand for precise mathematical equations. Quantum field theory applied to the understanding of the strong interactions between quarks and between protons, neutrons, and other baryons and mesons is called quantum chromodynamics (QCD); QCD has a mathematical structure similar to that of QED.
See R. P. Feynman, QED (1985); F. J. Yndurain, The Theory of Quark and Gluon Interactions (1993).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.