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The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe Kindle Edition

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Length: 464 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An engrossing history that's also accessible for a general audience." ---Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Frank Close is the author of several books, including Antimatter, Neutrino, The Void, and The New Cosmic Onion.

Jonathan Cowley is a British actor living in Los Angeles who has received AudioFile Earphones Awards for his narrations of The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen and The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3894 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Publication Date: November 29, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OVTNB2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,162 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 144 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar VINE VOICE on November 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED) which describes the interaction of light and matter is the most accurate theory in all of science, providing almost unbelievably accurate agreement with experiment. Yet in the middle of the twentieth century the theory was in a deep crisis. Calculations of even the simplest of events in the subatomic world, like the absorption and emission of a photon by an electron, seemed to give nonsensical infinite results that flew in the face of finite values from experiment. These infinities dotted the landscape of physics like ugly tumors, leading some to believe that physics was fundamentally on the wrong track. But hope was at hand. It took a whole post-war breed of brilliant young scientists to invent an ingenious set of tricks collectively called "renormalization" to get rid of these infinities and restore the theory to a complete form. Renormalization not only axed the infinities in QED but became the test that any fundamental theory of physics had to pass before being deemed acceptable. In a stunning set of successes, it was applied to the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces and then to the strong force holding protons and neutrons together. In this book Frank Close tells us how all this happened.

Close's book is not only a clear description of renormalization but is also probably the most detailed popular history of post-war particle physics that I have read. Close starts with QED and how its brilliant expositors like Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman developed renormalization techniques to exorcise its infinities.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on May 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the minute details of who-did-what-first in the evolution of the Standard Model, and you really care about who got Nobel prizes and who did not but really deserved to, then this is the book for you. I don't care about either very much, so a good part of this book was a waste of my time.

The descriptions of basic physics models is always very challenging, and Close tries to do a good job of it. He does manage to get across a lot about how fundamental particles behave, but the various theories he discusses are just names, with no substantive content. I know that in mathematics, there are many areas that simply cannot be explained to the non-mathematical layperson, and that may be true of modern physics as well. However, in other fields that I know (population biology and economics, for instance) the important stuff can be fully explained with only the most minimal use of mathematical formalism. I am searching for a popular account of the Standard Model with this attractive feature.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Peter W. Donovan on December 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review is being written on 14 December 2011 just after
CERN announced to a packed press conference in Geneva that
it had found evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson.
While this is not as sensational as the first landing on the
Moon, it is a partial verification of the relevance to the
real world of various developments made in theoretical
physics since 1950.

So what is needed is an authoritative book explaining what
is CERN, who is Higgs and what is a boson? Frank Close
has written such a book in advance of the press conference.
He is a senior physicist and an experienced writer about
science. He interviewed participants, read papers and
other documents and used his own expertise to give a
useful account of the sequence of events.

Inevitably the technical aspects of renormalization and
bosons are glossed over to some extent. `If all this
could be summarized in a few sentences it would not be
worth a Nobel prize.' Close has quite a lot to say about
several Nobel prize awards as well as explaining how
high level progress in science is achieved.

The difficulty facing this or any other reviewer is
specifying the professional background needed to read
the book. At the very least, experience in any of the
physical sciences and/or the history of technology helps.
However anyone with an interest in physics will
benefit from reading some or all `Infinity Puzzle'.
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Format: Hardcover
*****

"It is a pleasure to read a book on recent advances in our understanding of the structure of matter by an author who not only understands the subject but also takes care to investigate conflicting accounts of how these advances came about."--Peter Higgs, Prof. Emer. Physics
*

Under the auspices of CERN in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was constructed to accelerate particles around the speed of light. LHC is the biggest experiment that particle physics has ever set out to conduct, trying to find answer to how the universe is structured and why. By creating miniature matter/anti-matter collisions in "a small region of space, what the universe as a whole was like in the first moments after the Big Bang."
Sought for decades in experiments aimed at detecting the subatomic particle, it gets its nickname, the 'God particle', from its elusiveness. That particle, when found, will answer why other subatomic particles weigh, what they do, perhaps opening the door to explain the mystery of gravity. By literally smashing atomic particles together, and see what pieces emerge from the collisions. Recently, two research teams at CERN lab report they have found evidence for the existence of the God particle.

"Finding the 'particle' gives us the detailed rules of Nature, and those details tell us how Nature does its work, and will hopefully lead to more discoveries." says physicist Frank Close. His adventure through the major scientific discoveries in high energy physics, started when Paul Dirac harmonized quantum mechanics with Special Relativity in 1928, advancing the major technical progress in today's digital world.
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