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Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles Hardcover – August 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0470286203 ISBN-10: 0470286202

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (August 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470286202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470286203
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Top Ten Ways the Large Hadron Collider Could Revolutionize the World of Science
Content from Paul Halpern

1. Solve the riddle of dark matter: the elusive invisible substance that helps steer the outer stars of galaxies and bind galaxies into clusters. The LHC could produce particles massive enough to explain this mystery.

2. Complete the puzzle of the Standard Model: the theory uniting two of the four known forces of nature, electromagnetism and the weak interaction. Based on what turns up in the LHC decay products, this model could be confirmed or need to be modified.

3. Identify the God Particle: more formally known as the Higgs boson. The Higgs is part of a mechanism that explains how the particles that make up matter acquired mass in the early universe, while photons, the carriers of light, remained massless. The mass of the Higgs, if it were found, would help indicate whether the Standard Model is fine as it stands or requires adjustment.

4. Reproduce some of the intense conditions of the Big Bang: the fiery, highly-compact state of the primordial cosmos. One of the specialized detectors at the LHC, called ALICE, will study quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed in the first microseconds of the universe. At that point its temperature was so high that the quarks and gluons that would later form elementary particles such as protons and neutrons were free to move.

5. Explain the universe’s shortage of antimatter: the oppositely-charged counterparts of electrons, protons and other particles. The LHCb, another specialized detector at the LHC, is designed to look for imbalances in certain types of decays that could elucidate how the balance of a harmonious early state of the universe came to tilt in the direction of far more matter than antimatter.

6. Generate miniature black holes: hypothetical incredibly dense states of matter analogous to some of the intense gravitational conditions of the collapsed cores of massive stars. No worries, however; these would decay almost immediately into various particles before presenting even the slimmest chance of harming the Earth.

7. Reveal gateways to higher dimensions: unseen paths beyond ordinary space and time. Certain theories justify why gravity is so much weaker than the other natural forces by positing that gravity particles leak into an extra dimension that ordinary matter and light cannot penetrate. Investigators at the LHC will search for evidence of such invisible channels.

8. Unify matter and forces through supersymmetry: a hypothesis asserting that each matter particle has a counterpart in the world of forces, and each force carrier, a companion in the realm of matter. The LHC will search for the least massive superpartners of conventional particles. The verification of supersymmetry would be an extraordinarily important step toward a theory of everything.

9. Predict the ultimate fate of the cosmos: Recent astronomical discoveries have indicated that space is accelerating in its expansion. The nature of any massive particles found at the LHC could help scientists unravel the properties of this dark energy and thereby determine what will ultimately happen to the universe.

10. Inspire new generations: to pursue careers in physics and carry on the search for the ultimate theory of nature. The shining example of discoveries at the LHC would illuminate a path for future scientists to follow.

Browse Photos of the Collider (Click on image to enlarge)


A corner of the Proton Synchrotron device with its bending magnets. Built in the late 1950s, it has since been used for a variety of purposes and now serves as an early stage of the injector system to accelerate protons and ions before they reach the main ring of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Paul Halpern standing on the grounds of CERN in Switzerland. In the right background is the Globe of Science and Innovation, built in 2002 as a symbol of our planet. In the far left background are the Jura Mountains in France. The 17 mile main ring of the LHC lies deep beneath the verdant countryside between the mountains and CERN.

The Linac (linear accelerator) at CERN is another component of the system for accelerating protons and ions before they reach the main ring of the LHC.

A sample cross-section of a beam pipe through which particles travel.

From Publishers Weekly

Halpern (What's Science Ever Done For Us?), professor of physics and mathematics, makes particle physics accessible in this look at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) "and the extraordinary discoveries likely to be made there." Beginning with the philosophers and scientists who shaped our understanding of the universe over centuries, Halpern explains complex topics and theories concisely, frequently drawing on deft analogies: the "fleeting nature of neutrinos is akin to a featherweight, constantly traveling politician... neutrinos never hang around long enough to make enough of an impact to serve as uniters." After tracing a path from Boyle and Newton through Mendeleev, Maxwell, Rutherford and Einstein, Halpern discusses modern discoveries and details the equipment utilized, from cloud chambers to various kinds of particle accelerators. The bulk of the text focuses on particle physics studies from the past four decades, in the U.S. at Fermilab and the costly but uncompleted Superconducting Super Collider, and in Europe at CERN in Switzerland (responsible for the LHC). Halpern makes the search for mysterious particles pertinent and exciting by explaining clearly what we don't know about the universe, and offering a hopeful outlook for future research.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Acclaimed science writer and physicist Dr. Paul Halpern is the author of more than a dozen popular science books, exploring the subjects of space, time, higher dimensions, dark energy, dark matter, exoplanets, particle physics, and cosmology. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. A regular contributor to NOVA's "The Nature of Reality" physics blog, he has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including "Future Quest" and "The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special".

Halpern's latest book, "Einstein's Dice and Schrodinger's Cat," investigates how physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger battled together against the incompleteness and indeterminacy of quantum mechanics. Their dialogue inspired Schrodinger's famous thought-experiment about a cat in a box that is in a mixed state between life and death until it is observed. They struggled to find a unified field theory that would unite the forces of nature and supersede quantum weirdness. Sadly they would never find success and their efforts would lead to a fiasco.

More information about Paul Halpern's books and other writings can be found at:
phalpern.com

Customer Reviews

I have not read the second, as it just came out and is expensive.
Seeker of Truth
Skillfull authors such as Paul, are able to give examples of complex subjects in such a way that the reader is immediately enlightened.
String
Happily, in `Collider - the search for the world's smallest particles' - Paul Halpern tells it well.
Dr. Timothy Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Tenzin-dolma on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Strap yourself in and prepare for a mind-expanding journey into the thrills and mysteries of the universe with award-winning physicist and author, Paul Halpern. This book is a gem.

The long-awaited moment when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN goes online has generated a great deal of excitement and (through misinformed press coverage) fear and trepidation. In `Collider' Halpern eloquently explains what the LHC is, how it will work, and what scientists will be looking for when it is operational.

The purpose of the LHC is to recreate the conditions which are thought to have existed less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang that birthed our universe. To help readers grasp the enormous potential of the discoveries that could be made, Halpern takes the reader on a thrilling adventure story that traces the footsteps of the scientists whose discoveries have pinpointed the extraordinary forces that created and sustain this planet that we call home.

Peppered with entertaining anecdotes and analogies which clarify the scientific principles, `Collider' is clearly a labour of love for its author. Halpern's highly infectious passion for science transmits itself through every page, and his explanations of the principles lend fuel to the imagination and generate a sense of wonder. The chapters take us on a compelling journey through subjects which include the standard model and the four forces, relativity, supersymmetry, the theory of everything, dark energy and dark matter, black holes, strangelets, wormholes and higher dimensions, describing what the LHC could divulge of these. The book concludes with the future plans for the Super LHC and the International Linear Collider.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MisterG on August 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I think it is safe to say that CERN's Large Hadron Collider has captured the public's attention. Sadly, judging by what has been in the news, little of that attention has focused on the purpose of the project. Both the science -- and the incredible feat of engineering it took to create the LHC -- take a back seat to the hype. The Collider is not, as some claim, a "Doomsday Machine." Or, as portrayed in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, a means of harvesting antimatter for use against the Vatican.

As strange as it might seem, the LHC is potentially much more amazing and wonderful than any silly doomsday scenario. And Paul Halpern's Collider will show you why. It is the perfect book to read while waiting for CERN to finally work out the kinks and start pushing particles.

In Collider, Halpern offers a clear and compelling explanation of the science behind high energy physics, and the history behind the creation of the LHC. Then he ties together both of these threads -- the history and the science -- to provide context for the search for the Higgs boson, and what that discovery could mean to our understanding of the universe. Halpern presents an overview of physics in the sort of plain, readable prose that makes you wish somebody had explained it to you this way long ago.

And, yes, he also tackles the claims that high-energy physics will destroy existence. (SPOILER: It won't!)

If you are, like me, awed by science and its practitioners, I think you could have no finer guidebook to the LHC than Paul Halpern's Collider.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Dudman on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have often found it remarkable that in order to explain the existence of the largest thing that we can imagine we have to search for the smallest thing too. For the curious lay-reader the field is perplexing and complicated, but luckily there are guides like Paul Halpern around that can tell us about these ideas in a clear way. In 'Collider' he gradually builds up a picture of the search for the world's smallest particles, starting from the ancient world through the modern world of atoms that is part of every High school curriculum, and then, from the 1950s, the more specialized world of recent mind-boggling ideas of quarks, fermions, bosons, leptons, hadrons, pions, gluons and various sorts of weak forces: 'a zoo of particles with bizarre properties and a wide range of lifetimes'. Even the most general reader builds up an impression of spins that don't actually 'spin', light and theories that are difficult to marry together, and how gravity is a misfit.

Along the way there are fascinating anecdotes of scientists and facts: scientists like Dirac who made important discoveries about the pieces of the puzzle and yet were unable to fit in themselves; calamitous stories of fixing lightning rods to Alpine peaks and then pertinent quotes from authors such as Voltaire and Plato.

Eventually, of course, it leads to the story of the Hadron Collider and story of making something small go fast... and the collision, and the detection, and the fight for funds.
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