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Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199603497
ISBN-10: 0199603499
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Editorial Reviews


"A tendency towards brevity and clarity make for a handy guide to the long hunt for an elusive quarry." - Nature

"For those who want the full story, there is Jim Baggott's Higgs....His detailed explanation of how the Higgs mechanism gives particles mass is extremely elegant." -- New Scientist

"Higgs is an impressive volume, clarifying details, making the concepts that have been in dispute for years finally lucid... Higgs drills deep under your skin, constantly ferreting out new vistas, easily escaping our eyes. Baggott brings these-and more-together to form a solid concept of the God Particle effort-read it."
-- San Francisco Book Review

About the Author

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He was a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Reading but left to pursue a business career, where he first worked with Shell International Petroleum Company and then as an independent business consultant and trainer. His many books include Atomic: The First War of Physics (Icon, 2009), Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy and the Meaning of Quantum Theory (OUP, 2003), A Beginner's Guide to Reality (Penguin, 2005), and A Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments (OUP, 2010).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199603499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199603497
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. R. Trtek on November 1, 2012
Format: 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.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
*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.
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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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Format: 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
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