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Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Graham Farmelo, Guardian (London)
“[Peter] Higgs himself has proved almost as elusive as his eponymous particle. Until now. Ian Sample.... persevered long enough to secure an interview with him, and the results are among the highlights of Massive, a lively account of the genesis of both the LHC and its most famous particulate quarry....Sample has interviewed quite a few other leading scientists, too, and proves adept at prising insights from them....We are kept hooked by its fine reportage, which makes clear the sheer achievement of the scientists and engineers who have built the LHC, the most complex machine ever made in the service of pure science. We learn, too, of the many theoretical concepts that will be probed by it.”
“Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines. . . . Quality science journalism."
“Ian Sample… shows a keen eye for the personal equation even while narrating large swatches of physics history. . . . Mr. Sample’s exciting, easy-to-read narrative captures the collaboration, and competition, among the theorists who became involved in the search [for the Higgs particle] over the decades.”
“[T]his was my holiday page-turner: a clear and engrossing description of the physics of the Higgs boson (with surrounding weirdness), combined with a breathless account of the leap-frogging race for its discovery.”
“Science journalist Sample does an excellent job of capturing the history of the subject and the vivid personalities of some of the most famous living physicists. . . . Massive is an excellent nontechnical introduction to the history of modern particle physics right up to the present… Highly recommended.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Particle physicists hunting for maddeningly elusive particles sometimes must feel like Mr. Hunter from the movie "Crimson Tide". The quarries which they are trying to mine seem so ephemeral, making their presence known in events with such slim probability margins, victims of nature's capricious dance of energy and matter, that intuition must sometimes seem as important as data. The hunt for such particles signifies some of the most intense efforts in extruding reality from nature's womb that human beings have ever put in.
No other particle exemplifies this uniquely human of all endeavors than the so-called Higgs boson. The man who bears the burden of imparting it its name is now a household name himself. Yet as the history of science often demonstrates, the real story is both more interesting and more complicated. It involves intense competition involving billions of dollars and thousands of careers of a kind rarely seen in science, and stories of glories and follies befitting the great tragedies. In his book "Massive", Ian Sample does a marvelous job of bringing this history to life.
Sample excels at three things. The first is the story of the two great laboratories that have mainly been involved in the race to the finish in discovering nature's building blocks- Fermilab and CERN. CERN was started in the 60s to give a boost to European physics after World War 2.Read more ›
It is a quick read and flows well with antidotes about the people involved that are pulled out through extensive interviews and research. Certainly there will be an updated version of this once the results are confirmed from Fermi or LHC and Nobels are awarded - along with the associated controversies.
Strengths of the book include:
1) Well written and easy to read
2) Quick read
3) Handles tough topic for non-physicist
4) Sets up well for next edition
5) Well researched with great interviews of subjects (Weinberg for example)
While the book is very Peter Higgs' centric in chapters three and four that probably makes sense given the name of the boson and need for the story to focus on someone. The years that Higgs spend after the 1964 papers toiling with an extension and defending the findings were interesting while the other theorists moved on to other work in the USA and Belgium. Higgs was not actually the first to work on this since Guralnik and Hagen were working with Gilbert on the issue well before 1964. But overall the book is a great overview of the theory work that is not often shared.
I am looking forward to how the story ends outside of the book, the USA edition, and the certain versions from Dr. Sample that will follow.
Great book. Great effort.
In a field populated by authors who are explicating their own discoveries, Dr. Sample brings the unique perspective of a real journalist. Avoiding an overly detailed recitation, Dr. Sample brings a refreshing brevity to the tale. He manages to find the examples of human frustration, pique and ambition that make any story worth reading. But, that aside, I felt the first glimmer of understanding of what Dr. Higgs actually figured out. Sure, I may be more dim than the average reviewer, but I have read several books on the recent developments in particle physics (general offerings all) and the opening chapters of this book were the best at explaining the nature of the question, i.e. where does mass come from. This is also the only offering, thus far, that lends an entire chapter to the media-fueled hype over the issue of the dangers presented by high-energy colliders, which provides a fine commentary on the state of modern science education and societal tolerance for pure research.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sadly, this book is like so many others that are supposed to be about science; it's *actually* about the people who created the science, rather than the science itself. Read morePublished 17 months ago by T. Hill
This book is a great read for anyone looking for background
on the hoopla surrounding the Higgs Boson (actually written two years
before the discovery). Read more
Investigative journalists that get this close to the action are rare indeed, Ian Sample could easily be seen as one of the Higgs team. Read morePublished on May 18, 2013 by Ray
I purchased this in order to learn about the Higg's mechanism, but only walked away with a history lesson. Read morePublished on May 12, 2013 by S. Sacek
This book was one five recommended in "The New York Times" as good sources of understanding of the search for the Higgs boson. Why was finding evidence of the boson important? Read morePublished on March 28, 2013 by Fred W. Hallberg
As a retired engineer, I do a little test in a book store to see if a popular technical book is worth buying. I open it at one or two random spots and see if I learn anything. Read morePublished on March 6, 2013 by Donald E. Fulton
Excellent primer on the Higgs particle for the non-scientist! Provides a solid history and explanation of the Standard Model of Particle Physics as well. Read morePublished on February 19, 2013 by P. Gagliardi
I enjoyed the more narrative form of writing out of all of the physics books I have read this year. Dealing with theories not yet fully understood and explaining collider that few... Read morePublished on February 15, 2013 by nathan