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The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universeby Frank Close
Synopses & Reviews
The second half of the twentieth century witnessed a scientific gold rush, as physicists raced to chart the inner workings of the atom. While many of its mysteries came unraveled, one remained intractable—the Infinity Puzzle.” Although quantum field theory offered a powerful explanatory framework for elementary particle physics, it nonetheless made one utterly ridiculous prediction: that certain events had an infinite probability of occurring. In The Infinity Puzzle, acclaimed theoretical physicist Frank Close covers half a century of particle physics and explains how scientists reached a solution that enables theory to match what we see in the real world, and in so doing gave rise to the idea of the Higgs boson. With a physicists expertise and a historians care, Close describes the personalities and competition, the dead ends and the sudden insights, in a story for the pursuit of an orderly universe.
This updated edition includes a new epilogue that brings the story up to date, including the July 4, 2012, announcement of a Higgs beyond reasonable doubt” and discussion of where physics goes next.
"Close (The Cosmic Onion) explains the science behind the billion international effort to discover the Higgs boson: a fundamental subatomic particle that scientists believe could account for the origins of our universe. Under the auspices of CERN in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was constructed to accelerate particles near to the speed of light. 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.' Close voyages through the major scientific discoveries in high energy physics that began in 1928, when Paul Dirac married quantum mechanics with Special Relativity, laying the basis for the major technical advances from which we benefit in today's digital world. Along the way we meet some major figures in the field whose breakthroughs have illuminated the deepest mysteries of physics and cosmology, resulting in an engrossing history that's also accessible for a general audience. Agency: Conville & Walsh. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Close (physics, U. of Oxford) recounts the conflicts, misdirection, inspirations, and hard work over the past quarter century in sub-atomic particle physics. His topics include the point of infinity, the identity of John Ward, broken symmetries, B.J. and the cosmic quarks, heavy light, and to infinity and beyond. He does not assume readers have a background in science. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Speculation is rife that by 2012 the elusive Higgs boson will be found at the Large Hadron Collider. If found, the Higgs boson would help explain why everything has mass. But theres more at stake—what were really testing is our capacity to make the universe reasonable.
Our best understanding of physics is predicated on something known as quantum field theory. Unfortunately, in its raw form, it doesnt make sense—its outputs are physically impossible infinite percentages when they should be something simpler, like the number 1. The kind of physics that the Higgs boson represents seeks to renormalize” field theory, forcing equations to provide answers that match what we see in the real world.
The Infinity Puzzle is the story of a wild idea on the road to acceptance. Only Close can tell it.
About the Author
Frank Close is a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Oxford University and Fellow and Tutor in Physics at Exeter College, Oxford. He is the winner of the Kelvin Medal for the public understanding of physics and the author of ten books. He lives in Abingdon, England.
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