Popular Posts

Powered by Blogger.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Particle at the end of the Universe aims to explain the Higgs Boson and how it has been discovered.

I have read this book once, but feel that it is a book that requires more than one reading. It is not an easy book, although it is also an introductory book and does explain all concepts. There is no requirement to have a degree in science, or even much understanding of mathematics.

I think the problem is that the world of particle physics is complex and confusing. It is very different from our normal view of the world and it seems harder to rely on the sort of analogies that are common in cosmology. A Big Bang seems easier to visualise than virtual particles.

The book details the sheer difficulty in particle physics, and that several decades passed between the Higg Boson being postulated(by lots of people not just Higgs) and discovery. Billions of euros and vast amount of data have had to be gathered. The author leaves it up to the reader to determine if this is a good use of resources, and indeed argues it is a pure search for truth rather than relying on the usual arguments for spin off benefits.

I did take away some things from this book. It offers an introduction to the Standard Model of particle physics. The standard model looks like:-

The photons make the electormagnetic force. The Z and W Bosons are the weak force and Gluons are the strong force. Not shown is a graviton which is responsible for gravity.

Quarks make up the nucleus of atoms. Leptons are not subject to the strong force and are most important in electrons which give atoms their chemical properties.

The Higgs Boson is important because it explains why some of the particles have mass. It seems this is not the source of mass in the universe, as this is caused by other interactions within atoms(as energy is mass and the energy of particles reacting leads to mass). The other role is breaking symmetry, but I must confess on first reading of this book I do not really understand this.

I liked this book a lot, it is readable and has advanced my understanding of a complex area. I am left wondering if there are other introductory books on particle physics that might allow me to approach it from another angle and so develop a further understanding. Or perhaps Brian Cox will do a television series.