Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science

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Overview

The biggest science story of our time, Massive spans four decades, weaving together the personal narratives and international rivalries behind the search for the “God" particle, or Higgs boson. A story of grand ambition, intense competition, clashing egos, and occasionally spectacular failures, Massive is the first book that reveals the science, culture, and politics behind the biggest unanswered question in modern physics—what gives things mass?

Drawing upon his unprecedented ...

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New York, NY 2010 Hard cover New. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 260 p. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the ... event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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New York 2010 Hard Cover First Edition New in New jacket 8vo. New York: Basic Books, 2010. First edition, first printing. 8vo. Hard cover binding, 260 pp. New in new dust ... jacket, protected with an archival-quality mylar cover. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The biggest science story of our time, Massive spans four decades, weaving together the personal narratives and international rivalries behind the search for the “God" particle, or Higgs boson. A story of grand ambition, intense competition, clashing egos, and occasionally spectacular failures, Massive is the first book that reveals the science, culture, and politics behind the biggest unanswered question in modern physics—what gives things mass?

Drawing upon his unprecedented access to Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, award-winning science writer Ian Sample chronicles the multinational and multibillion-dollar quest to solve the mystery of mass. For scientists, to find the God particle is to finally understand the origin of mass, and until now, the story of their search has never been told.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What gives objects mass? Guardian science correspondent Sample explains the current theory behind this tantalizing question, a theory based on a mysterious, fundamental particle called the Higgs boson, which cannot be broken down into smaller particles and imbued matter with mass right after the Big Bang. The theory, developed by Peter Higgs in 1964, was elegant and neatly filled in a hole in the list of elementary particles--but the Higgs boson could only be found with particle accelerators much more powerful than those then in existence. Physicists in Europe and the U.S. dueled to build such an accelerator but have yet to isolate the Higgs boson. Inconsistent funding, some name-calling, wild publicity over the possibility of a superpowerful accelerator turning into a "doomsday machine," expensive lab accidents and acts of sabotage create a roller-coaster of a tale. Sample keeps the physics accessible, but the real pleasure is in the personalities and drama he reveals behind the hunt for one of the most elusive objects in the universe. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews

Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines.

To a physicist, "massive" does not mean "heavy," explains Guardian science correspondent Sample. It means having mass or weight (such as an atom) as opposed to having no mass (such as a light photon). The author adds that at the instant of the Big Bang, everything in the universe existed as energy. Einstein pointed out that energy and mass are equivalent, and an instant after the Bang, an energy field that permeated the fledgling universe switched on. Depending on how strongly particles felt it, they acquired mass, resulting in protons, electrons, atoms, molecules, stars and eventually life itself. This is the Higgs field named after British physicist Peter Higgs, the central figure in Sample's narrative. Scientists take a new theory seriously when it makes accurate predictions, and discoveries of the W and Z particles in the 1980s did just that. Although now an accepted concept, the theory also predicts a massive Higgs particle, an essential element and the only particle in the standard model of our universe still undiscovered. Careful readers will learn a good deal of physics, but Sample spends equal time on personalities, rivalries and histories of the gigantic particle accelerators racing to find the Higgs. In the lead is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which uses the world's largest accelerator, now operating in Switzerland. American readers may wince to learn how the United States assured itself second place when Congress cancelled the much larger Superconducting Super Collider in 1993, but the modest collider at Fermilab outside Chicago remains a contender.

Quality science journalism.

From the Publisher
Graham Farmelo, Guardian (London)
“[Peter] Higgs himself has proved almost as elusive as his eponymous particle. Until now. Ian Sample.... persevered long enough to secure an interview with him, and the results are among the highlights of Massive, a lively account of the genesis of both the LHC and its most famous particulate quarry....Sample has interviewed quite a few other leading scientists, too, and proves adept at prising insights from them....We are kept hooked by its fine reportage, which makes clear the sheer achievement of the scientists and engineers who have built the LHC, the most complex machine ever made in the service of pure science. We learn, too, of the many theoretical concepts that will be probed by it.”

Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here
“When the Higgs boson is discovered, it will be front page news, and this is the book that sets the stage.  Ian Sample mixes cutting-edge science with behind-the-scenes stories to paint a compelling picture of one of modern science’s greatest quests.”
 
Nature

“Sample describes the competition and politics behind the experiments that have sought the eponymous boson. . . . He relates amusing anecdotes… [and] spins a good yarn…  To get a sense of the sociology and politics of high-energy physics, Massive is a good place to start.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
“Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines. . . . Quality science journalism.”

Publishers Weekly

“[A] roller-coaster of a tale. Sample keeps the physics accessible, but the real pleasure is in the personalities and drama he reveals behind the hunt for one of the most elusive objects in the universe.”
 

Kirkus Reviews
“Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines. . . . Quality science journalism."
 

Wall Street Journal
“Ian Sample… shows a keen eye for the personal equation even while narrating large swatches of physics history. . . . Mr. Sample’s exciting, easy-to-read narrative captures the collaboration, and competition, among the theorists who became involved in the search [for the Higgs particle] over the decades.”
 
Physics World
“The grand narrative in Ian Sample's book sweeps from the earliest speculations on the nature of matter; through the Second World War and the dawn of nuclear weapons; the paranoia of the Cold War (during which science was seen as a source of national security); rival efforts by the US and Europe to lead the world in times of peace; and the eventual emergence of worldwide scientific co-operation. . . .  Massive carries the reader through the epic using individual episodes from the lives of some of the participants.”
 
New York Journal of Books
Massive is a tale of search and of discovery, of the hunt for a particle of high mass and very short lifespan called the Higgs Boson. . . . Go. Read. Enjoy.”
 
Jo Marchant, author of Decoding the Heavens
“[Massive] weaves the physics into a compelling human story; it's a science book that reads like a novel… [and] the best discussion I've read of what it will mean if they do finally manage to make the Higgs boson, and what finding it might tell us about the nature of the universe.”
 
CultureLab, NewScientist.com
“A whirlwind tour of the discoveries that first revealed the subatomic world. . . . Like any good book, the excitement in Massive builds, culminating with the frenzied Higgs hunt at the end of LEP's run and more recently at the Tevatron at Fermilab in the US - both racing against time to bag the revered particle.”
 
Stephen Curry, Reciprocal Space Blog on nature.com
“[An] entertaining and breathless read: Sample whizzes through the story, tracking the progress from Higgs' first inkling of an idea back in the early sixties right up to the present day, which sees the particle physics community poised on the verge of discovery, waiting to see if the Higgs' boson—the eponymous 'God particle'—will finally flash into existence as the LHC is ramped up to full power.”
 

Dara O’Briain, New Scientist
“[T]his was my holiday page-turner: a clear and engrossing description of the physics of the Higgs boson (with surrounding weirdness), combined with a breathless account of the leap-frogging race for its discovery.”
 

The Midwest Book Review
The definition of the Higgs boson and how it gives everything mass, and why it's important, comes alive for readers with little prior science background. Recommended for general-interest and science collections alike!”
 
The Guardian (UK)
“Sample's story of “how the universe got its mass” is told through the life and science of Higgs.  The result is a compelling work of popular science, full of mind-boggling ideas and a real sense of the excitement of scientific discovery.”
 
Choice
“Science journalist Sample does an excellent job of capturing the history of the subject and the vivid personalities of some of the most famous living physicists. . . . Massive is an excellent nontechnical introduction to the history of modern particle physics right up to the present… Highly recommended.”

Physics Today
“A quick and enticing read…Massive provides an accessible introduction to the physics of this, the LHC era.”
 

The Guardian
“A gripping account of… the story of how the [Higgs boson] theory, first proposed in 1964, moved from being a curiosity of dubious relevance to the centre stage of fundamental physics today. . . . So read this book, then watch the final stages of this particular scientific quest play out over the coming months and years.”
 
Ruth Francis, Head of Press, Nature “Ian Sample had unrivalled access to the players in the hunt for the Higgs boson and recounts a gripping tale, littered with intimate insights into the participants. . . . Massive is a page turner, at times thoroughly absorbing, and I challenge any reader not to be captivated by the ongoing hunt for the Higgs as it unravels.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465019472
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.84 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Sample is a science correspondent at The Guardian, and before that at New Scientist. He holds a PhD in biomedical science and was named investigative journalist of the year in 2005 by the Association of British Science Writers. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Prologue

1 Long Road to Princeton 1

2 Shadow of the Bomb 15

3 Seventy-Nine Lines 35

4 The Enchanted Prince 55

5 An Earnest Revenge 71

6 Reagan's Renegade 103

7 Massive Maggie 125

8 The End Is Not Nigh 143

9 The Gordian Knot 169

10 Chasing the Wind 189

11 Hidden World 211

Acknowledgments 223

Notes 227

Bibliography 245

Index 249

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    Readable Physics Book -- out-of-date

    The world of theoretical and experimental physics is changing at a very rapid pace. This book was written in the eighties and was pushing and heavily relying in the SSC in Texas which was actually canceled apparently the week after this book was published.
    On the plus side, it provided a very readable and somewhat understandable explanation of particle physics and what experimental evidence led Dr Higgs to propose the Higgs Field idea. Hr didn't name it, someone else did. Anyway, since it was written when the evolution of accelerators and colliders was capable of nowhere near what energy levels needed to prove or deny the theory. That would not happen for almost thirty years.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted a good history of and explanations of particle physics and proposals of new theories and ideas.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Incredible!

    This book is packed full of an incredible amount of very interesting information! Everything from the beginnings of particle physics to modern hadron colliders with their historical backgrounds, and then some!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 7, 2011

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