### abstract

- We consider the relationship between the tight-binding Hamiltonian of the two-dimensional honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms with nearest neighbor hopping only and the 2+1 dimensional Hamiltonian of quantum electrodynamics which follows in the continuum limit. We pay particular attention to the symmetries of the free Dirac fermions including spatial inversion, time reversal, charge conjugation and chirality. We illustrate the power of such a mapping by considering the effect of the possible symmetry breaking which corresponds to the creation of a finite Dirac mass, on various optical properties. In particular, we consider the diagonal AC conductivity with emphasis on how the finite Dirac mass might manifest itself in experiment. The optical sum rules for the diagonal and Hall conductivities are discussed.