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Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-9812381491
ISBN-10: 981238149X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

.,." readers, from the merely curious to the expert in the field of modern particle physics, should read this book ..."

Review

I greatly enjoyed finally reading a book that goes into the details I always wanted ... Veltman has the courage to try a deeper level about what we understand and what is simply fact ... Even if you have read books popularizing physics before, you have to read this one ... --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Company; 1 edition (February 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 981238149X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9812381491
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Hubert J. Farnsworth on September 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Veltman delivers the tale of phenomenological particle physics with enthusiasm and depth as one of its leading researchers. He attempts to cover the whole arena, from the complex behavior of quarks and gluons to the description of particle detectors. Woven throughout the book are small "vignettes" (his terminology for brief biographical sketches) of the many physicists, famous and not-so-famous, who contributed to the current understanding of our universe. He succeeds relatively well in his goal of explaining particle physics to the layman.
But don't look here for any coverage of the more esoteric and exotic ideas of theoretical physics like string theory. He unequivocally states,
"The fact is that this book is about physics, and this implies that the theoretical ideas discussed must be supported by experimental facts. Neither supersymmetry nor string theory satisfy this criterion. They are figments of the theoretical mind. To quote Pauli: They are not even wrong. They have no place here."
He is, of course, correct but I think he downplays the mathematically unifying power of string theory, for which experimental verification lies beyond today's technological reach and thus cannot be vindicated one way or the other. Mathematical beauty, while not a sure sign of physical truth, can at least serve as a powerful beacon for future physical insights.
Always the true scientist, Veltman should be praised for unapologetically declaring agnosticism if evidence for a theoretical idea isn't clear cut. For example, he writes several times that the neutrino is massless but will almost always parenthetically acknowledge that it might have a very small mass (which indeed it does, as experimental evidence of neutrino mixing has been since verified).
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By E. Uthman on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I don't believe I have ever been so internally conflicted by any book. On the one hand, it is clear that Martinus Veltman is a legitimate genius. The book is a cornucopia of insights I have never seen in any other work. Veltman also enriches the book with original accounts of the human side of numerous physicists; some are so detailed as to seem gossipy.

On the other hand, whoever copy-edited this book should be banned from the English-speaking world. Much of the book reads like a transcript of an informal discussion group. It is the task of the editor to provide the translation of the casual musings of a genius into a polished publication; that task is unfulfilled here.

Edited properly, Facts and Mysteries could be a must-have book for all layman physics enthusiasts. As it is, it's just an also-ran. I would recommend it only to those who are already pretty conversant in the field.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By nerdyguy1618 on September 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a unique book.

First of all, the paper, font, diagrams, and cover are wonderful. It's really a nice looking book cover to cover.

Next, the author includes biographies of people involved in the field. The writing is candid and humorous. The biographies don't read like a textbook at all. They include his own opinions, as well as interesting anecdotes about the people.

Finally, the author includes some of his own personal story in the book, regarding his work in particle physics. It's nice to see a first-hand account. I enjoy his commentary.

All these things make this a special book, and worth reading.

The author can be somewhat grumpy, but you have to take that with a sense of humor. Consider that physicists (I am one) tend to be literal and often TOO honest, at the risk of being blunt or awkward. So try not to be put off.

Some parts of the book are a bit tedious. If you really want to understand the topic, read some other books along with this one. If there's only one book to get, try Oerter's "Theory of Almost Everything". But if you want a few books, then definitely include this one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jens Zorn on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Veltman, a Nobel-prizewinning theorist, has written an engagingly personalized account of the interplay between experiment and theory that underlies our current understanding of particle physics. The description is thorough and yet -with a lay reader in mind- is about as non-mathematical as can be managed in this subject.

Some reviewers have complained about a lack of rigor in copy editing, but the occasional infelicities seem quite minor and do not diminish the book's intellectual value

Veltman's account is unusual in giving generous credit to those experimentalists who conceive, build, and make measurements with accelerators and detectors. He describes the manner in which the data from those measurement affect the work of theorists. His vigorously expressed views on the physics and on the physicists give Veltman's book an unusual zing. It should be read by anyone with a serious interest in the substance or the sociology of contemporary physics.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bo Nils Johan Persson on January 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I find the book by M. Veltman absolutely beautiful.

But a large part of

the book is not for beginners but requires a rather good knowledge in physics. I like the fact that the theory is presented in close contact with experiment, which is rather unusal today with so many popular books in physics containing wild speculations.

After reading the book it is clear to me that high-energy physics

is not a ``dead'' field but contains a lot of exciting, unsolved problems.

The fact that the language is not perfect is for me

a minor detail.
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