The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

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Overview

Scientists have just announced an historic discovery on a par with the splitting of the atom: the Higgs boson, the key to understanding why mass exists has been found. In The Particle at the End of the Universe, Caltech physicist and acclaimed writer Sean Carroll takes readers behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to meet the scientists and explain this landmark event.

The Higgs boson is the particle that more than six ...

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The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

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Overview

Scientists have just announced an historic discovery on a par with the splitting of the atom: the Higgs boson, the key to understanding why mass exists has been found. In The Particle at the End of the Universe, Caltech physicist and acclaimed writer Sean Carroll takes readers behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to meet the scientists and explain this landmark event.

The Higgs boson is the particle that more than six thousand scientists have been looking for using the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, which lies in a tunnel 17 miles in circumference, as deep as 575 feet beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It took ten years to build and this search has now cost over $9 billion and required the collaboration of engineers from more than one hundred countries.

What is so special about the Higgs boson? We didn’t really know for sure if anything at the subatomic level had any mass at all until we found it. The fact is, while we have now essentially solved the mass puzzle, there are things we didn’t predict and possibilities we haven’t yet dreamed. A doorway is opening into the mind boggling, somewhat frightening world of dark matter. We only discovered the electron just over a hundred years ago and considering where that took us—from nuclear energy to quantum computing—the inventions that will result from the Higgs discovery will be world-changing.

The Particle at the End of the Universe not only explains the importance of the Higgs boson but also the Large Hadron Collider project itself. Projects this big don’t happen without a certain amount of conniving, dealing, and occasional skullduggery— and Sean Carroll explores it all. This is an irresistible story (including characters now set to win the Nobel Prize among other glories) about the greatest scientific achievement of our time.

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  • The Particle at the End of the Universe
    The Particle at the End of the Universe  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With his trademark wit and lucidity, Carroll (From Eternity to Here) delivers the story of the search for the elusive Higgs boson—the Holy Grail of particle physics—which was finally discovered earlier in 2012. The tale, says Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, is one of “money, politics, and jealousy” among scientists and nations seeking the prize. The Higgs boson is not an atomic particle; it’s part of the Higgs field that pervades the universe and gives atomic particles their mass. The quest for the elusive particle required a cutting-edge tool: the massive, complex Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. Carroll takes readers inside the collider’s 17-mile ring, where protons zoom around at ultrahigh speeds to smash together, revealing telltale signs of the boson. Along the way Carroll introduces researchers like Mike Lamont, the LHC’s “Mister Scott”; engineer Lyn Evans, the man who built the LHC; and Fabiola Gianotti, one of the top women scientists in the world. Whether explaining complex physics like field theory and symmetry or the workings of particle accelerators, Carroll’s clarity and unbridled enthusiasm reveal the pure excitement of discovery as much as they illuminate the facts. Illus. (Nov.)
Wired
[Carroll's] writing is accessible and peppered with cultural refernces... but don't be fooled Carroll isn't afraid to wade into topics that have befuddled even brand-name physicists."-Wired
The Washington Post

"Carroll keeps it real, getting at the complex guts of cutting-edge cosmology in discussions that will challenge fans of Hawking's A Brief History of Time."

Library Journal
Carroll, particle physicist and popular science writer/blogger, makes the story of "the God particle" and CERN's Large Hadron Collider accessible for popular science readers. Appendixes provide more explanation of particle physics. (LJ 1/13)
Kirkus Reviews
A leading particle physicist explains why the official confirmation of the existence of the elusive Higgs Boson ("the God Particle") was a world-changing scientific milestone. Carroll (Theoretical Physics/Caltech; From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, 2010, etc.) makes a convincing case for the necessity of supporting basic scientific research that may have no discernible payback. At the cost of billions of dollars and a decades-long international effort by thousands of scientists, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva is Big Science on steroids. The LHC uses superconducting magnets to accelerate protons traveling in opposite directions, almost to the speed of light. The massive amount of energy released when they collide results in the creation of the Higgs particle, which then rapidly decays, revealing the track of more recognizable particles. In the author's view, the days are over when an individual scientist such as Carl Anderson (working with a team of students) could build a cloud chamber and be the first to reveal evidence of antimatter by identifying the track of a positron. With the help of diagrams and vivid, descriptive language, Carroll reveals the scientific background to the discovery and why it has given scientists a glimpse of how the universe works on the most fundamental, subatomic level. The Higgs particle fills in a piece of the puzzle, but the author recognizes that despite the success of this endeavor, building an even larger, next-generation collider may prove politically difficult. A fascinating chronicle of an important chapter in fundamental science.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525953593
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 433,030
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Carroll, PhD, is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. After receiving his doctorate at Harvard, he pursued his research at MIT, the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago. Also the author of From Eternity to Here, he lives in Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 The Point 7

2 Next To Godliness 19

3 Atoms and Particles 39

4 The Accelerator Story 55

5 The Largest Machine Ever Built 75

6 Wisdom Through Smashing 93

7 Particles in the Waves 115

8 Through a Broken Mirror 135

9 Bringing Down the House 163

10 Spreading the Word 189

11 Nobel Dreams 209

12 Beyond This Horizon 243

13 Making It Worth Defending 269

Appendix 1 Mass and Spin 283

Appendix 2 Standard Model Particles 293

Appendix 3 Particles and their Interactions 299

Further Reading 311

References 313

Acknowledgments 321

Index 323

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2012

    Hard read

    I have been reading physics for about 10 years. In small amounts I have begun to understand partical theory. This book is very difficult to read as a lay person, but it does put all the pieces to the theories together. I had a deeper appreciation for science, and a deeper understanding of just what the Higgs Field is. It is not just the partical called the Higgs. This partical completes our current knowledge, somewhat like when the periodic table was completed. There are diagrams concerning all particals. This goes into depth about each ones "spin" and "weight". Read and re-read, it does complete the understanding of Partical physics.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Excellent book

    The text was good. The diagrams are not legible on my Nook.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Very interesting. Really explains the Higgs

    I have been reading books about Quantum Physics for two years. When the best physicist says "if you think you understand the quantum world, you are mistaken", it is really true.
    This book is a very heavy science book to read. It is deep into the micro world. If that is not to your liking, it is not for you. However; for the first time, the list of strange particles finally was presented in a relatively complete form. It was presented in groups that made sense. This was done without extensive formulas. It was written for the lay person. Be sure to read the appendices at the end as well. Naturally it is only a beginning of what is yet to come but stay tuned.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    An interesting story

    This is an interesting history of the Higgs boson, from theoretical foundation to the attempt to verify its existence.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Great book

    Fun, interesting, easy to read!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 7, 2014

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    Posted January 29, 2013

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    Posted June 13, 2014

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    Posted December 27, 2012

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