The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe

The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe

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by Frank Close
     
 

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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 there’s more at stake—what we’re really testing is our capacity to make the universe reasonable.

Our best understanding of physics is predicated on something known as quantum

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Overview

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 there’s more at stake—what we’re 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 doesn’t 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
"An engrossing history that's also accessible for a general audience." —Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Close (Theoretical Physics; Oxford Univ./Neutrino, 2010, etc.) chronicles the search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle (the "God Particle"). The author begins with Quantum Electrodynamics, Paul Dirac's groundbreaking but flawed 1928 model that unified Special Relativity and Quantum theory, and examines how it led to a succession of important discoveries: gauge invariance, renormalization, parity violations, the existence of quarks, symmetry breaking and the existence of new weird particles such as the Higgs Boson. Experiments to verify the theories needed larger and larger accelerators, with high-energy particles colliding at speeds of 300,000 kilometers per second. A major thread of the story is the interaction between the key scientists, many of whom the author knew personally, as they vied for recognition and the final accolade of a Nobel Prize. Close explains that it is not only necessary to make a great discovery but to be the first to publish it. Waiting for confirming results before publishing may prove disastrous in the competition. Throughout, the author chronicles the winners and losers in the annual Nobel sweepstakes, giving them recognition for their achievements and providing a lively thread for readers who may be struggling to comprehend the science. The story culminates with the Large Hadron Collider, which has been fully operational since 2009 but has yet to produce results. Its effort to verify the existence of the Higgs Boson by "recreat[ing] the conditions of the early universe in the laboratory" comes with a hefty price tag. In the author's view, the 60-year effort to confront "the paradox of the Infinity Puzzle has brought us to the threshold of being able to address the question of existence itself." Close ably demonstrates the stakes in this perhaps misplaced, hubristic effort.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465028030
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/29/2011
Series:
NONE Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
683,288
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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"An engrossing history that's also accessible for a general audience." —-Publishers Weekly

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