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4.3 out of 5 stars
Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2004
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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.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
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One of the most intriguing and fascinating scientific stories of the 20th century has been the incredible advance in our understanding of matter in its most fundamental form. In a nutshell, the 20th century has seen the vindication of the atomic hypothesis: all of the nature, the matter and even the interactions of matter, can be reduced to a finite number of indivisible particles. It turns out that atoms, the original candidates for irreducible particles as their name suggests, are in fact composed of a myriad other particles which to the best of our knowledge and understanding are truly fundamental. Furthermore, we have discovered many other particles that cannot be found in an atom, and many of those turned out to be composites of other fundamental particles. Considering how many different kinds of these extra-atomic particles were discovered, it is quite remarkable that we were able to reduce this "zoo" to just a few basic ones. This book presents an interesting and accessible account of how we managed to get to this point. The book presents both the experimental and theoretical developments in Particle Physics that has led us to the point where we are at. The book is intelligible to anyone who has any interest in the subject, and it doesn't require any special mathematical knowledge. And yet, like most books in this series, it does not condescend to the reader but tries to educate him and bring him up to the latest in our understanding of this fascinating field. All of that makes this book an enjoyable and worthwhile read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2012
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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).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
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.....)
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40 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
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In an introduction to a topic, one expects lots of figures to explain just about every topic. This book, and indeed the entire series, generally has rather few figures. The series also, generally, focuses on the historical development of the topic and not necessarily on the current understanding of the topic. Therefore, the series sacrifices a better explanation of our current understanding to explain who thought what and when. Nonetheless, this book serves adequately in the capacity of a "very short introduction."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2008
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We owe a debt of gratitude to Frank Close for writing such a short and comprehensible introduction to a field that, in everyday scientific practice, is as technical and complex as they come. It is a major accomplishment to set out, in under 150 pages, not just the history of particle physics, the scales of time and space being investigated, the development of experimental techniques from Rutherford to the Large Hadron Collider, and the key concepts of the standard model that has dominated particle physics for more than 30 years.

Indeed, the neat overview and classification of elementary particles and their interactions in the standard model is sufficient reason to keep this book close at hand.

As befits a very short introduction, the book devotes only limited space to more speculative ideas such as supersymmetry, and indeed strings are mentioned only once. Even so, a few authoritative pages dealing with unsolved theoretical and conceptual problems as they relate to particle physics would have been helpful.

Close is associated with CERN and an enthusiastic advocate of multi-billion dollar particle accelerators. While these machines are indeed impressive, an outside observer cannot help but wonder whether such a regimented and bureaucratic approach to science has not already reached severely diminishing marginal returns. It will be interesting to look back in a few years' time at whether this heavy investment of taxpayer money has paid the dividends in new knowledge and insight that Close and others like him hope for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2009
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This book offers a lively review of particle physics with illustrations. The introductory notes of each chapter are useful. Many interesting topics are covered, such as: the elementary particles of matter (electron and quark); strange particles, anti-matter and dark matter in cosmology; and the forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetic force, strong and weak force).

By the way, it is fascinating to know that we exist because of a series of fortunate accidents: the Sun burns at just the right rate; the stable protons (seeds of hydrogen) enables stars to cook the chemical elements essential for the Earth to be built; neutrons are slightly heavier than protons, which enables beta radioactivity and transmutation of the elements for the Sun to shine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
I agree with many other readers in that you could do worse in finding a book on Particle Physics. The book is not overly academic. Sometimes it can get a little detailed and requires some extra attention, but I feel the reader could forget these parts and still have a good basic idea of what particle physics is about. Someone who reads this will feel a little more in the know when they read news articles about the subject, or at the very least it may whet their appetite to learn more about the topic.

A great read which I highly recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book completely satisfied my needs for knowledge of up-to-date information on
particle physics. I'm a retired chemist, and a lot has changed since my late sixties college days.
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