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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: Up until very recently, news out of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) regarding the progress of the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had been slow in coming, and nary a major discovery had been announced. On July 4th, though, all of that...
Published on August 21, 2012 by A. D. Thibeault

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Narrative but Lacking True Illumination
Writing popular explanations of modern physics is not easy. There are a wealth of books about introductory quantum mechanics for the layman, but finding a well-written explanation of advanced topics that actually does some true explaining is about as easy as, well, finding the Higgs Boson. Sadly, this book by Jim Baggott is not what you're likely to be looking for. It is...
Published on November 1, 2012 by J. R. Trtek


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Narrative but Lacking True Illumination, November 1, 2012
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This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
Writing popular explanations of modern physics is not easy. There are a wealth of books about introductory quantum mechanics for the layman, but finding a well-written explanation of advanced topics that actually does some true explaining is about as easy as, well, finding the Higgs Boson. Sadly, this book by Jim Baggott is not what you're likely to be looking for. It is well-written, and it does provide some very nice behind-the-scenes history -- I didn't know, for instance, that Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg were classmates at at the Bronx High School of Science. And when it comes to detailing the experimental history of seeking and presumably finding the the Higgs Boson, Baggott does a fine job of narration. The author fails, however, to give meaningful verbal explanations for many quantum processes. And in fairness, perhaps in some cases that's just not possible. There may come a point where the reality is expressed so completely in the mathematics that physical understanding -- to the extent that that's possible in the quantum world -- can be achieved only through an understanding of the mathematics. There are several instances where Baggott introduces a concept in a sketchy way, then simply declares that one result or the other is a consequence of the concept in question without giving a real sense of why that effect comes about. A prime example is the Higgs mechanism itself. Here's the tail end of Baggott's explanation: "Breaking the symmetry creates a massless Nambu-Goldstone boson. This may be 'absorbed' by the massless spin 1 field bosons to create a third degree of freedom...In the Higgs mechanism the act of gaining three-dimensionality is like applying a brake. The particle slows down...." And the slowdown effect is what we interpret as the particle having mass. Fine, but why is it that a particle must slow down if its wave-function acquires a third dimension in the direction of motion? I assume that it's related to issues of viewing the particle in other reference frames moving at different velocities and the transformations that would result but which don't if the particle is massless and must move at lightspeed.... Of course, what I just started writing probably makes no sense to many people, so perhaps I've just managed to appreciate the difficulty of Baggott's task in writing his book. My point, however, is that few of the "explanations" in Baggott's text really explain in fundamental way. But as I stated at the beginning, perhaps that's an impossible goal when it comes to modern physics. My bottom line, after this too-long of a review, is that you'll get some interesting history and a fine explanation of the experimental side of the topic, but don't expect to understand the theoretical side after you read this book unless you already understood it going in.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, August 21, 2012
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This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: Up until very recently, news out of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) regarding the progress of the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had been slow in coming, and nary a major discovery had been announced. On July 4th, though, all of that changed. As on that day CERN announced the discovery of nothing less than the Higgs boson, the 'God particle'.

The potential discovery of the Higgs boson had been one of the principal reasons why physicists were so excited about the LHC; and therefore, within the scientific community the announcement was cause for a major celebration indeed. For most of the general public, however, while the announcement was certainly intriguing, there were many basic questions yet to be answered: Just what was the Higgs boson, and why had it been labeled the God particle? Why were physicists expecting to find it, and what did the discovery really mean? Adequately answering these questions was more than what journalists were able to do in their compressed news segments and newspaper articles--and, besides this, it was a task that many journalists were not up to regardless.

Jim Baggott's new book 'Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle'' is meant to remedy this situation and provide the necessary context that the general public needs in order to understand the discovery of the Higgs boson and what it all means.

With impressive clarity, Baggott first takes us through the history of the development of the Standard Model of particle physics (which theory the Higgs boson is a part). He begins with the discovery that atoms are made up of the still more elementary particles of electrons, protons and neutrons. And then takes us through the discovery of the still more fundamental particles of quarks, leptons and bosons, and the 4 fundamental forces that govern these particles: gravity, the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force.

At every step of the way, Baggott is sure to explain what difficulties confronted the understanding of particle physics that was current at the time, what theoretical models were developed to overcome these difficulties, and the empirical evidence that was used to establish which theoretical model won the day. For instance, and of crucial importance here, is that--after learning of the 3 types of elementary particles, and the 4 basic forces--we learn that there was a problem with the then-current theory regarding the masses of the elementary particles--in that the 4 forces alone were simply unable to account for it. In order to overcome this difficulty, some physicists postulated that there must be a charged field pervading space, since such a field appeared to be the only appealing way to solve the mass mystery. This field was called the Higgs field.

The problem was that there was as yet no empirical evidence that the Higgs field actually exists. What physicists did think, though, was that if it did exist, it would imply the existence of a certain type of boson particle, dubbed the Higgs boson. What this meant is that if physicists could find the Higgs boson, they would have empirical evidence that the Higgs field does in fact exist, and the problem regarding the masses of elementary particles would be adequately solved. On July 4th, it was the discovery of this very particle that was announced, and Baggott takes us behind the scenes at the LHC to explain just what went into the discovery.

While the discovery of the Higgs boson solved one major problem with the Standard Model, there are a few others that have yet to be solved--including the hierarchy problem, and the problem of explaining gravity--and Baggott does touch on these issues as well.

Amazing science, wonderfully told. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written but not easy to understand., October 9, 2012
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With due credit to the author for tackling a very esoteric subject. I am still struggling with mathematics developed in the 18th century so I don't have the tools to work with to really understand particle physics. The history of our understanding of atoms and then the more elementary particles of which they consist is a very interesting read. The discussion on symmetries was the clearest I have ever read. This is a very good book written for non-scientists and I give the author high marks for bringing this subject down to a level that can help the reader follow future developments with some comprehension. I expect a second reading will help me understand even more. Kudos to Jim Baggott. I hope he will continue writing books like this one.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best attempt.., December 2, 2012
This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
to present the history of Standard Model and explain its intricacies.

Stating it, I realize how the Standard Model of particles and interactions is hugely complex...all names of particles, symmetry violations and ways that symmetry is broken under numerous circumstances.
Therefore only gifted science writers and those who work (or worked) in the field of particle physics can provide the best shot at this subject. I would include here among others: Victor Stenger, Leon Lederman, Frank Wilczek, Richard Feynman, Helen Quinn (check them on Amazon).

Here is my brief impression after checking first 70 pages from Jim Baggott's book: (I doubt to read further):
Jim Baggot tries initially to explain symmetry on few pages and jumps instantly into Lie groups and gauge symmetries. This is bad. Then you read about 'subtracting one perturbation series from the other, thereby eliminating the infinite terms'. He explains further this 'renormalization procedure' by quoting after John Gribbin, that series 1+2+3+4+.. diverges into infinity. This is wrong (see Lawrence Krauss' "Hiding in the Mirror" where he explains plenty about symmetries and that infinite series do not look like they seem).
Text is flooded right from the beginning with many names and unnecessary facts about them (places where they studied for example). In short: it was hard to follow, reader will most likely get bogged down amidst all this.

Just because Higgs boson has been encountered recently, it does not warrant any need for reading "HIGGS". There are several older, better, and still perfectly valid books depicting history behind the Standard Model.
After reading Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe some time ago, I would love to see this book combined into one with The God Particle) - Leon Lederman does fantastic job explaining what is symmetry, groups and gauge. Curious reader may also try to learn about concept of symmetry group by taking The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly incomprehensible but interesting nonetheless, September 23, 2012
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Richard Alvarez (Schenectady, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
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As a layman with just a bit of technology training, much of this book is difficult for me. Having said that, the author does sprinkle in enough of the personal give and take among the scientists to permit me to appreciate this great journey of discovery. I was surprised that it did hold my interest.

I recall a NOVA program years ago on PBS in which Richard Feynman said the quest to understand the universe is akin to seeking the rules of chess by observing only one square on a chess board. I now understand what Feynman was saying. These physicists are just groping about in the dark, trying to make sense of it all. Thanks to Baggott for taking me along on this great journey.

I can recall in a freshman physics course in 1964 asking the professor for a definition of mass and being unsatisfied with his response. I now know that in 1964 nobody knew precisely what it was. We knew it was a measure of resistance to acceleration (F = m*a) but an explanation of what is mass seemed elusive at that time. The discovery of the Higgs boson, thus validating the Higgs mechanism, clears things up for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but I was hoping for more, August 6, 2014
Trying to discuss the Standard Model of nuclear physics and how the Higgs particle fits into this paradigm is not an easy task. This book did an OK job in explaining this, but not as clearly as I had hoped it would have. I have a reasonable technical background and I have read quite a bit about the Standard Model, so I found the treatment generally clearly written, but a little sketchy as to details. However, I suspect that someone without a technical background would find the book over their heads, even though it contains no mathematics.

I found the short Epilogue to be the best part of the book and in my opinion the book would have been greatly improved if it were expanded or if there was an appendix that summarizes the Standard Model in a little more detail. While I have rated this book four-stars, I have my reservations about how useful this book would be for a reader with little or not technical background or previous exposure to the Standard Model and I would rate it at only two or at best three-stars for that audience.

What is in the book -
· The book treats the subject from a historical perspective, starting with the idea of symmetry and how this relates to physical laws. While this discussion was initially very clear, it shifted into a discussion of symmetry in Group Theory, of Lie Groups, without any mention of what Group Theory is and exactly what a Lie Group is. I think that an appendix covering this subject would have been very helpful. I think that much of this material would be difficult at best for someone without some background in this mathematics and the physics associated with it.

· The book then shifts to the historical development of the Standard Model. Since I was familiar with this material I found this to be clearly written, but sketchy, perhaps too sketchy for someone with no familiarity with this material.

· The final sections of the book discuss the machines that have been developed in order to investigate the atomic nucleus, culminating in the development and operation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. This part of the book would probably be the most interesting for someone that might have been frustrated by the mathematics and physics discussed in the rest of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable account of the history of particle physics leading up to and including the higgs boson, March 11, 2013
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This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
Science writer Jim Baggot was very fast to publish Higgs- which as pointed out by Steven Weinberg in the foreward means this book was largely written in anticipation of the discovery of the Higgs boson. Higgs is a an account of modern particle physics and its history. It goes through the evolution of theory and then the experimental physics which verified it. It does so in good detail, leaving out the math and describing how the zoo of particles was enlarged paper by paper.

The book is split into two parts called Invention and Discovery. In Invention the author really starts at the beginning with the mathematical idea that facilitated much of modern physics which was Noether's Theorem. The author then goes through Yang-Mils theory and then through the work of Murray Gell-Mann and the unification of the weak force with electro-magnetism. The author then describes how quarks were first pondered and then the Higgs field as well as how the Higgs field might "create" mass. The author ends the section with the work of Hooft and how he is able to deal with the math and make it coherent. In discovery the author then discusses the first particle accelerators and how the zoo of theoretical particles was slowly observed. it discusses the politics that were involved in the late 80s and early 90s which allowed the US to lose support whereas the Large Hadron Collidor continued on to be completed. The author then focuses on the LHC and takes us right up to current events where the higgs boson is confirmed to have been observed.

This book is clear and informative. It discusses how we got here in both theory and practice and how much is unknown. All we know now is that there is a particle who has properties that are in line with what we would expect if there is a higgs field and though this is a remarkable fact, scientists know they have much more to do and much more to discover to be confident they have the right underlying structure. One always gets a bit lost in the zoo of particles that modern physics predicts exist and this book is no exception but the writing is clear and much is communicated well enough for the reader to be able to take out many ideas and facts
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title, January 15, 2013
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This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
I bought this book because someone here gave it a great review. I don't know what that reviewer has been reading, but this was a pretty disappointing account of the history of the SM. Very little light was shed on Higgs mechanism or particle. There was nothing new in the book, and what was there wasn't all that well written. I've bought and read at least 30 physics books in the past 7 years. The best of them I've reread 2 or 3 times. Chance that I'll reread this book: zero.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For those who love Physics, September 6, 2014
Jim Baggot published this book one year before the Higgs Boson were “confirmed” in the LHC. It was a good forecast of the next discovery. The book is not full of formulas; however, I believe is not a book for beginners, but for those who has some knowledge in Physics and love the science it will be a interesting book.
Baggot tell us about the Physics particle doing a historical review easy to follow.
Therefore, if you are ready to deal with bosons, leptons, mesons, baryons, hadrons, fermions, and all this zoo of particles take a look to this book.
I found it in the British Library in Lima.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy reading for the noviette, June 18, 2014
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This review is from: Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' (Hardcover)
Deep reading but I would recommend a little background in Quantum Mechanics before diving into this book/I loved it !
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Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle'
Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' by Jim Baggott (Hardcover - September 6, 2012)
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