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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.
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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