The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of Modern Physics Hardcover – July 22, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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From the Back Cover
(MOST OF) THE UNIVERSE IS IN YOUR HANDS
There is a theory in physics that explains, at the deepest level, nearly all of the phenomena that rule our daily lives.... This theory bears the unassuming name "The Standard Model of Elementary Particles," or the "Standard Model," for short. It deserves to be better known, and it deserves a better name. I call it "The Theory of Almost Everything."
The Standard Model has a surprisingly low profile for such a fundamental and successful theory.... In physics news items, the Standard Model usually plays the whipping boy. Reports of successful experimental tests of the theory have an air of disappointment, and every hint of the theory's inadequacy is greeted with glee. It is the Rodney Dangerfield of physical theories, it "don't get no respect." But it is, perhaps, the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement to date.
From the IntroductionPraise for THE THEORY OF ALMOST EVERYTHING
"In an era when enormous attention is being paid to the promising but highly speculative superstring/M-theory, a great triumph of science has gone nearly unnoticed, except by physicists. Robert Oerter provides here an accessible introduction to the Standard Modela towering example of human creativity. He outlines how the Standard Model can serve as the launching pad for humanity toparaphrasing Einsteinsee better the secrets of 'the Ancient One.'"
S. J. Gates Jr., John S. Toll Professor of Physics and director, Center for String and Particle Theory, University of Maryland
"We always hear about black holes, the big bang, and the search for life in the universe. But rare is the book that celebrates the Standard Model of Elementary Particlesa triumph of twentieth-century science that underpins nearly all we know about physical reality. Oerter's The Theory of Almost Everything belongs on anyone's shelf who cares about how the universe really works."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author of Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
The Standard Model is the most important theory in modern physics. It is the tried-and-true theory of all known physical interactions, with the exception of gravity. Outside of scientific circles it is not nearly as well known as string theory or chaos theory. But it is more important than both, and it is absolutely essential to understanding where we are heading next in physics. Now, in a tour de force of science writing, physicist Robert Oerter reveals the Standard Model to the general public.
Cobbled together by many brilliant mindsincluding Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mannthe Standard Model combines Einstein's special relativity with quantum mechanics, revealing a bizarre reality beneath the surface of the mundane world that we all experience. Particles pop into existence from pure energy. Light travels to a given destination on all possible paths at the same time. Solid matterlike lightis neither particle nor wave. Making use of rich analogy and metaphor, Oerter illuminates the quantum world of the Standard Model. He shows that although the theory seems absurd from a common-sense point of view, it nonetheless fully agrees with experiment.
Oerter explores the conceptual framework of the Standard Modelwhat he considers its most fascinating aspect. He shows that different types of symmetry are at the heart of the theory. It is these symmetries, which lie deep within the structure of the atom, that give rise to the forces of nature. Oerter reveals that one of these symmetriesor rather, the fact that it was broken only moments after the creation of the universeis the reason matter as we know it exists.
After lucidly explaining the Standard Model's implications for the universe as a whole, Oerter takes readers to the edge of physics. He shows how new developments could alter the Standard Model. Experiments now running are searching for neutrino mass and the holy grail of particle physics, the Higgs boson. Grand unified theories, supersymmetry, preon theories, and string theoryalthough not verified by experimentcould be the next steps in theory.
The Theory of Almost Everything is essential reading for anyone curious about what modern physics tells us about the nature of the universe.
© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
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There is one serious criticism I have of the book, which occasions my giving it only four stars and not five. The author seems not to have a clear picture of the level of reader he is writing for. He introduces equations, which may put off a total novice, although he doesn't really USE the equations, and might as well leave them out and be more inviting to such a novice. But for someone like myself, with a background in a related subject (quantum chemistry), a little more delving into the equations and their consequences might be useful. It has been said that each quuation added to a book cuts its potential audience by half; the author almost deliberately flouts this dogma, while not taking advantage of any additional understanding that might be gained by going into the equations.
But the writing itself is very readable, and I recommend this book.
This book is one of the best I have read on particule physics. It is clear without delving into too much maths.
However, it still has too little information in some areas:
# How do the attractive and repulsive forces of electromagnitism work. A photon has no charge yet it can transmit both of these forces from electrons to other electrons, between protons and electrons, etc. Clearly there must be some difference between the properties of photons emitted by electrons and protons. But there is no mention of this.
# All the particule physics books use a mexican hat as an analogy for spontaneous symmetry breaking. However the analogy is a weak one. The mexican hat is two dimensional but we seem to be discussing a single dimensional field vector. Please explain more, particularly what field is being discussed and how many dimensions it has. Its a nice analogy but I need to know what it physically represents. Also why does the symmetry breaking have to occur at the same time and in the same way in the entire universe?
#The higgs particule is skirted around without an detailed indication of how it interacts with itself and other particules. Please give me some details. If the details are still unknown then tell me this and explain what is known.
Generally speaking the book is at the right level for me. I think it would also do well for a university student to read before begining a particule physics course or even a general physics course. It would provide a conceptual understanding so that the mathematics could be filled in.
Top international reviews
So, really - a good, readable book - just what I was looking for.
I lost trust in the author by page 2. There he suggests that the Standard Model is "perhaps, the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement to date." I've never seen such blatant tub thumping for ones own subject. What about Kant's philosophy, Tolstoy's novels, and all those other peaks of human achievement?
Throughout the book the fundamental concepts are not explained properly, or looked at in sufficient depth. For instance he says that the classical field has physical reality, but the quantum field does not(p.79). This conclusion requires far more support than he gives - he fails to convince me at all! Theoretical quantum fields predict events in physical reality, so we can allow them physical reality, surely? Especially if we allow equally "second hand" classical fields physical reality.
I also pursued a physics degree many moons ago, and wanted to catch up with the Standard Model. But this book didn't help me much at all. You might say, "go read some textbooks then...". Fair enough, but I think someone should help the lay reader by pointing out that, if they don't understand this book, it is the author, and not them, who hasn't tried hard enough.