- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (November 2, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465019471
- ASIN: B0057D9HSQ
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,250,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
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From Publishers Weekly
What gives objects mass? Guardian science correspondent Sample explains the current theory behind this tantalizing question, a theory based on a mysterious, fundamental particle called the Higgs boson, which cannot be broken down into smaller particles and imbued matter with mass right after the Big Bang. The theory, developed by Peter Higgs in 1964, was elegant and neatly filled in a hole in the list of elementary particles--but the Higgs boson could only be found with particle accelerators much more powerful than those then in existence. Physicists in Europe and the U.S. dueled to build such an accelerator but have yet to isolate the Higgs boson. Inconsistent funding, some name-calling, wild publicity over the possibility of a superpowerful accelerator turning into a "doomsday machine," expensive lab accidents and acts of sabotage create a roller-coaster of a tale. Sample keeps the physics accessible, but the real pleasure is in the personalities and drama he reveals behind the hunt for one of the most elusive objects in the universe. (Nov.) (c)
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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This book is only a documentary about the history leading up to the concepts behind the theoretical Higg's Boson. This book was written prior to the announcement made by the CERN research labs on July 4, 2012, which pointed out the discovery of new boson with an even-numbered spin. Although the researchers didn't go as far as to say they discovered the Higg's Boson, they were quite clear that it was indeed a boson, and that more testing was needed before they could say with absolute certainty that it was the particle predicted by the 'Standard Model'. This book makes no mention of the latest LHC research results, and as far as I am concerned, it is irrelevant to the book in general.
The author is a good writer, and a good story teller, but as far as I can tell he is not a physicist, but rather only a historian on this subject matter.
What you will learn in this book is all the names of the scientists over the centuries whose work has played a role leading up to the theoretical ideas behind the Higg's Force. You will learn their names, where they were born, where they worked, who they worked with, what prizes they were awarded, what they ate, and who they slept with. But what you will not learn about is the science behind the Higg's force.
If what you want is only to learn about this subject at a 500-meter bird's eye view; not going into any scientific details, then this book is probably for you. Otherwise stay away it, as you will be disappointed like I was.
There are other books out there which do go into detail that you might be interested in. One of them is by an actual PhD particle physicist named Nicholas Mee, and his book is titled: "HIGGS FORCE - Cosmic Symmetry Shattered". He is also a good story teller, and his book is written for non-scientists. You can find it here:
Higgs Force - Cosmic Symmetry Shattered
I picked Sample's book because it seemed from the reviews to be the most thorough and the most on target concerning the search for the Higgs boson.
It turned out to be very detailed about the process of the search for the Higgs boson, and to be more about the search as a political process than as a series of efforts to make successful measurements. I did learn some things on the way. I now know the difference between a Hadron and a Lepton. (I went to school in the era of protons and electrons.) But the details make reading the book a rather hard slog. (Curiously, that is exactly the analogy used to explain how the Higgs boson is supposed to create mass. It draws a crowd of on-lookers toward itself the way a beautiful woman would do at a cocktail party. This crowding creates "mass" understood as resistance to acceleration.)
The book "Massive" is clearly written, but it is as "massive" as the Higgs particle it describes. It has advanced my understanding of contemporary particle physics. But this advancement has required a lot of time and effort.
Sample's writing and excellent `Notes' section compensate for the lack of illustrations, just. The success of the book definitely stems from his consultation with key players, almost all of whom are still living. While such a book cannot pretend to explain the physical theory, Sample identifies resources that can. Best of all, the reader will be up to date to watch history being made, or not, by the work at the Large Hadron Collider.
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on the hoopla surrounding the Higgs Boson (actually written two years
before the discovery).Read more