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Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192804341
ISBN-10: 0192804340
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Frank Close is a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London. He has published several books, including the bestselling Lucifer's Legacy, and was the winner of the Kelvin Medal of the Institute of Physics.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804341
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.4 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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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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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.
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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.
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