on October 24, 2004
This book is excellent for anyone who would like to learn fundamentals of particle physics, or refresh his or her basic knowledge in the area. Particles are on the forefront of physics, with new ones discovered or proven to exist not long ago, with new theories emerging, or old ones confirmed or found inconsistent, chances are what we know about particles today is somewhat different than what you may have learned in school back.
Interesting facts and easy to understand comparisons make this book captivating. It explains the structure of atoms, and subatomic particles, as well as methods and instruments used to study them. Sometimes the book is repetitive, but repetition is one of the key aspects of learning.
Overall, this very short introduction feels very fresh and light to a reader, and the last chapter that focuses on current high priority theories to be proven, gives an excellent outlook of what may await us in the future, giving this book balanced perspective.
on November 16, 2012
As far as the "A Very Short Introduction" goes, this book is a little bit of an outlier. It lacks the novel approach that we tend to see in the series, which encourages us to buy them. Despite that minor oddity, Close's "Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction" is a wonderful member of the series, because it doesn't derive its value from the novelty that typifies Oxford University Press's series. The value of this work comes from the incredibly potent condensation of material that comprises it. In recently doing a survey of basic particle physics literature, I read a number of books, a number of them introductory, and I was surprised to find that the information presented in this book still had a few bits and pieces that the others missed. Therefore, if you are in the business of wanting to know quite a bit of the basics of particle physics, but without fluff, this book is the way to go. Also, the historical treatment is rather satisfying, insofar as developing a context for the scientific content.
Presentation may be an issue for some, as Close gives a just-the-facts-ma'am approach. If you are looking for an introduction is a little less stodgy and a bit more fun, I recommend considering the following, instead: "The Brittanica Guide to Particle Physics," "From Atoms to Quarks," or "The Elusive Neutrino: A Subatomic Detective Story." It is a give and take: Close's introduction has more material and the coherency of the presentation cannot be beat, but you give up style. Overall, if I am recommending a particle physics book to an undergrad, Close is the way to go. Otherwise, it really is a matter of taste and what you are looking to get out of the book, especially if entertainment is a value (the one-star review for this book was given for this reason, but, as I said, it is a matter of what you want to get out of the book, so beware).
This is indeed a very short introduction (129 pages of text), but it is also very informative. The book introduces particle physics from the standpoint of experimental evidence, without recourse to any theory. Thus, there are plenty or bubble chamber photographs, but no mention of group theory or even quantum mechanics. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a highly readable overview of particle physics.
What is in the book -
The book focuses on the particles, protons, neutrons and electrons that make up our physical world, and the quarks that make up protons and neutrons. The book also covers photons and the different types of neutrinos, plus mesons and muons. While not the focus of the book, it also discusses the forms of matter found at high energies in accelerator experiments – the different types of quarks (the strange and charm, top and bottom) as well as the up and down quarks that make up protons and neutrons. Anti particles are discusses as are the possibilities of supersymmetric particles. There is also a brief mention of the Higgs field and the Higgs Boson. Gluons are mentioned, but not the fact that there are different types of them. The book is divided into 10 chapters as follows:
Chapter 1 – Journey to the center of the universe – A general introduction to the atom and the universe at large.
Chapter 2 – How big and small are big and small – A discussion of size from the size of quarks inside a proton or neutron as compared to the size of galaxies and the visible universe.
Chapter 3 – How we learn what things are made of, and what we found – An introduction to x-ray imaging and particle accelerators.
Chapter 4 – The heart of the matter – The constituents that make up atoms – electrons, protons and neutrons and the quarks that make up the protons and neutrons. This chapter also includes a discussion of neutrinos and anti-particles.
Chapter 5 – Accelerators: cosmic and man-made. Cosmic rays as a producer of elementary particles and different types of accelerators.
Chapter 6 – Detectors: cameras and time machines. The use of film, cloud chambers, bubble chambers and ore modern devices and how they are used to detect particles.
Chapter 7 – Forces of nature – A discussion of force particles – photons, W and Z particles, and gluons, plus a mention of the possibility of gravitons.
Chapter 8 - Exotic matter and anti-matter – The particles found at higher energies in accelerator experiments. (I found this to be the most difficult chapter and the one that I would have liked to have expanded a bit.)
Chapter 9 – Where does matter come from? – A discussion of the creation of hydrogen, helium and heavier elements.
Chapter 10 – Questions for the 21st century – Dark matter, Higgs Boson, supersymmetric particles and some questions for the future such as multidimensional space.
on May 6, 2014
I just love these small books. You get a nice, brief overview of a particular subject, and there are many subjects covered by these books. In this book, Frank Close, professor of physics at Oxford University, enlightens us on the nature of the particles that make up our universe.
He begins by discussing the nature of matter, atoms, and forces. We then get a feel for the relative size of the constituents of our world from the very small (angstroms and Fermi) to the very large (the universe). We are provided with a good explanation of the electron volt (eV) and what it means when trying to ascertain the nature of the atom and the protons, neutrons, quarks, and electrons that compose it. There is some discussion of cyclotrons and synchrotrons, the effects of relativity on the accelerated particles, and the different types of colliders in use today.
The author spends a chapter discussing the various particle detection methods from the early techniques to the present, such as the cloud chamber, emulsions, bubble chambers, spark chambers, proportional chamber, drift chamber, and silicon strip detectors. We learn also about the neutrino detection methods via the SuperKamiokande experiment and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory - all very interesting stuff. Following this, we get an introduction into the weird world of quarks, such as the charm, strange, bottom, and top quarks, concluding with a short discussion on why the world consists of matter rather than antimatter.
on February 24, 2013
The book starts well but gets about a third of the way through the topic and seems to stop. I got a taste of the topic but little statisfaction. A vey short introduction indeed.
Robert Oerter's book is much better and if you have a thirst for an understanding of this topic you would be much better off with it. (ie. The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model.....)
on August 20, 2014
When the book arrived, I said "It's small and only 160 pages looks like an easy read". I guess there is no such as easy reading in physics for non-scientists. It's not difficult, but there is just so much basic information that I didn't know about. It's small enough to put in my pocket when I go to the park with my beach towel. I can read a chapter and ponder it. He explains everything clearly, and it is actually very fascinating. For beginners to particle physics, I would recommend going to the Wikipedia article about particle physics, and saving and printing the purple, green, red and yellow chart with all the particles; and cutting, saving and printing the chart with the 61 particles. The Particle Adventure is also a great free beginner website.
on August 6, 2014
Frank is a great writer and scientist. He gives good simple explanations of the subject without resorting to a series of formulas. He starts off by explaining atoms. They are not like what we learned in school as miniature solar systems. They are a cloud of electrons around a very very tiny nucleus, with a tremendous amount of nothing between. He describes in detail Baryons - Protons and Neutrons; Mesons - Quarks and Anti quarks. Later things get a bit heady when he describes Sparticles, Strangeness, Baryon Resonance, Leptons, Rho, Omega Phi, Pion, Etas, and Charm Quarks. (But hang in there, it gets better.) He then goes into how atoms were built up from the big bang. Finally the subjects at the end cover, Super-symmetry, Mass and the Higgs, Quark Gluon Plasma, Antimatter and Matter and Future questions. He truly explains things with understandable language.
on April 19, 2013
Frank Close is a wonderful author, and this short book helped me get the basics of particle physics. It covers topics while using a language that does not get too technical. The glossary is helpful, and I found that the writing was clear and easy to understand.
As with other VSI books, this one feels like it started off a lot longer but got trimmed down, which I appreciated.
It is best coupled with other books on the subject, notably quantum mechanics.
on January 7, 2015
This book is one of the Very Short Introductions series by Oxford University Press. It seems to play enough role as an introduction to particle physics for general audience with concise volume of about 130 total pages. If you are a freshman student in physics before learning modern physics in sophomore course, I'd like you to read this book. It does not only teach the basics about fundamental particles, but also explains particle accelerators and detectors in detail with real pictures, and discuss the future prospects of particle physics. Before I read this book, I didn't know why some accelerators have circular shape and how they work. It was good to know the mechanism. Overall, it is a good book. But after about the first two thirds of it, many unsatisfactory points emerge.
1. Some non-logical reasoning -- At page 90, it explains why individual quarks cannot be separated. Immediately after that, it says,
It is thus that the effects of colour charges become 'strong' at large distances.
2. Some severe typos -- For example,
Electromagnetic radiation was set free and the universe because transparent as light could roam unhindered across space. (page 114)
3. Some vague points. It explains about CP symmetry (page 127) but didn't explain what it is. In the middle, it gives an impression implicitly that readers will come to know the relationship between the dominance of matter over antimatter and the 'accident' of three generations (page 103, 104), but there seems to be no clear explanation on it until the end, just calling it an important future problem at the end (page 115). As far as I know, the dominance of matter is solved by the CP violation, and that the 'accident' of three generations is the only problem.
on August 13, 2012
Professor Frank Close OBE is a particle physicist at Oxford University with several books already to his credit. In the 1990s his book The Cosmic Onion was a popular best-seller and is now in a new edition - needed as more is uncovered about the structure of the atom. This relatively short text in the Oxford Press' VSI Series is a relatively easy read, given the potential complexity of the subject matter.
The author first gives us a quick guide to the most important sub-atomic particles that make up the structure of the atom - now fundamental course material in high school science classes. These first chapters are mainly about protons, neutrons and electrons. There is an interesting figure comparing temperatures with wavelengths of e.m. waves and their energies. Close gives us some idea of how these properties have been determined. Then we move on to the properties of the trios of quarks that make up protons and neutrons and we are introduced first to the neutrino and radioactivity and then to the particles of antimatter. There are whole chapters presenting summaries of both the particle accelerators used to produce various kinds of nuclear reactions and the equipment used as detectors.
Chapter 7 takes us into the four forces of Nature and the subatomic particles - some real, some virtual - that are regarded as carriers of these forces. We read of the familiar-sounding yet, in this context, exotic terms used to describe these particles - strangeness, charm and colour. Finally the author describes current views on the origin of the ninety-two natural elements and challenges remaining for physicists to resolve in this century.
If you are intimidated by things scientific, this book is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you have some grasp of basic science, preferably though not essentially to university entrance standard, this little book is a veritable goldmine of information, lucidly presented.
Howard Jones is the author of The World as Spirit