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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.
The first complete biography of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, revealing the personal feuds and ideological battles, the decades of neglect, the resurgence, and now, the deep questioning of a theory that has given us black holes, dark energy, and modern cosmology.
“It’s been a heck of a century for relativity, and The Perfect Theory is a perfect guide for this most beloved branch of modern physics.” — Wall Street Journal
Einstein’s theory of general relativity is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics. For almost a century now, physicists have been delving into Einstein's theory, seeking an understanding of the history of the universe, the origin of time, and the evolution of solar systems, stars, and galaxies. The expanding universe, the light speed barrier, black holes, wormholes, time travel — general relativity has allowed scientists’ imaginations to take flight with new possibilities, revealing a universe that is much stranger than anyone ever expected.
Arriving in time for the theory’s hundred-year anniversary, physicist Pedro Ferreira’s The Perfect Theory explains just how staggering an achievement that theory was while bringing to life the infighting that the theory sparked in the field of physics over the past century.
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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