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Beyond the God Particle

Beyond the God Particle

4.0 2
by Leon M. Lederman, Christopher T. Hill

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Two leading physicists discuss the importance of the Higgs Boson, the future of particle physics, and the mysteries of the universe yet to be unraveled.

On July 4, 2012, the long-sought Higgs Boson—aka "the God Particle"—was discovered at the world's largest particle accelerator, the LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland. On March 14, 2013,


Two leading physicists discuss the importance of the Higgs Boson, the future of particle physics, and the mysteries of the universe yet to be unraveled.

On July 4, 2012, the long-sought Higgs Boson—aka "the God Particle"—was discovered at the world's largest particle accelerator, the LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland. On March 14, 2013, physicists at CERN confirmed it. This elusive subatomic particle forms a field that permeates the entire universe, creating the masses of the elementary particles that are the basic building blocks of everything in the known world—from viruses to elephants, from atoms to quasars.
Starting where Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman's bestseller The God Particle left off, this incisive new book explains what's next. Lederman and Hill discuss key questions that will occupy physicists for years to come: 

• Why were scientists convinced that something like the "God Particle" had to exist? 
• What new particles, forces, and laws of physics lie beyond the "God Particle"? 
• What powerful new accelerators are now needed for the US to recapture a leadership role in science and to reach "beyond the God Particle," such as Fermilab's planned Project-X and the Muon Collider? 

     Using thoughtful, witty, everyday language, the authors show how all of these intriguing questions are leading scientists ever deeper into the fabric of nature. Readers of The God Particle will not want to miss this important sequel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“The God particle” will probably be the go-to phrase to describe the Higgs boson for decades. Lederman coined the phrase, which he called an “exercise in literary license” and which served as the title of his 1993 book about the elusive particle. Here, the Nobel Laureate teams up once again with fellow Fermilab physicist and coauthor Hill (after their most recent joint effort, Quantum Physics for Poets) with a postdiscovery look at the Higgs and its important role in modern physics. But this offering isn’t for poets—unless, of course, they’ve taken their fair share of upper-level physics courses. After reviewing some basic quantum mechanics, the authors discuss “the lowly muon” (a kind of elementary particle) and how it provided the first indication that the Higgs boson must exist. Theory held that mass—a measure not of weight, but of a quantity of matter—arose from the Higgs field, which was created by Higgs bosons “piling on” to fill up the vacuum with a constant flow of weak charge. Proving this, however, required the construction of the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful and most expensive particle accelerator ever built. The authors offer a brief but intriguing glimpse of the future of particle physics, but their story jarringly jumps between past and present, making it difficult to keep track of the particles in play and why exactly each is important. Diagrams. (Oct. 8)
From the Publisher
“These are exciting times for particle physics. With their customary charm and wit, Lederman and Hill take us on a fascinating tour of where we’ve been and where we’re going and, along the way, give the best description of the Higgs boson I’ve ever seen. A great read.”
 —James Trefil, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics, George Mason University, coauthor of Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Praise for the books of Lederman and Hill:
“A tour de force of physics made simple….”
Times Literary Supplement
“Few books about modern physics are as fascinating, far-ranging, and readable as this.”
NSTA Recommends
Kirkus Reviews
An energetic follow-up to The God Particle (1993), Nobel laureate Lederman's fine overview of particle physics. This time, Lederman is assisted by theoretical physicist Hill; the two co-authored Quantum Physics for Poets (2011) and Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (2004). The Higgs field and its particle, given its glitzy name in the first book and discovered in 2012, take up only one of a dozen chapters that reveal why mass exists. Contrary to the common misconception, "mass" does not mean heaviness but simply the presence of matter, as opposed to its absence in something like a light photon. It turns out that everything in the universe--protons, electrons, atoms, human beings--would be massless if not for the Higgs field. The authors explain this with an account of the critical importance of symmetries in particle interactions and why the weak force has a much shorter range than the electromagnetic force. In a large portion of the book, Lederman and Hill examine questions that physicists should address in the coming years, as well as the machines they must build to do this. The European Large Hadron Collider of Higgs fame produces modest numbers of extremely energetic protons. Machines with a different output (muons, electrons) or an immense output of particles with less energy would illuminate rare interactions, fleeting particles such as neutrinos, or still-obscure phenomena such as dark matter and dark energy. Despite the authors' enthusiasm, chatty style, and generous use of diagrams, charts and analogy, many readers will struggle with the complexity of the subject matter. Some concepts in physics (string theory is another) are difficult to explain to general readers, but Lederman and Hill make a noble effort, and those who obey their frequent suggestions to re-read may find it worth the effort.
Library Journal
The 1988 Nobel laureate (physics), Lederman (director emeritus, Fermi National Accelorator Laboratory; coauthor with Dick Teresi, The God Particle) partners again with theoretical physicist Hill (formerly, Fermi National Accelorator Laboratory; coauthor with Lederman, Quantum Physics for Poets) to discuss the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson particle at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) and what's next for subatomic particle physics research. This is essentially a sequel to The God Particle, in which the titular term for Higgs boson was coined. Both descriptive and prescriptive, this new book presents enjoyable overviews of discoveries of the physical world, from molecules to atoms and subatomic particles, including a clear description of the need for huge machines to provide energy to accelerate tiny particles. The authors still lament the U.S. government's 1993 cancellation of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, which could have led to the discovery of the Higgs and kept this country in the forefront of particle physics research. That lament drives the prescriptive aspects of this text. The authors aim to offer "coulds and shoulds," and do, including a directive thoroughly to study strong interactions in particle physics. VERDICT Ranging from simple explanations of particles and forces to more detailed discussions (that are math-lite), this engaging work will be most interesting to science enthusiasts and the science literate.—Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

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Prometheus Books
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Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2013 Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61614-802-7



There is a serene valley stretching about Lac Léman, from the spectacular French Alps, with Mont Blanc looming in the distance to the east, and the ancient round-top Jura Mountains to the west. This is the countryside of France surrounding Geneva, Switzerland, one of the most beautiful regions in all of Europe. It is a historic place; a center of banking and watchmaking; the home of Voltaire, the grandmaster philosopher of the Enlightenment; the host to the League of Nations, forerunner of the United Nations; a mecca for Roman history buffs, foodies, skiers, and train watchers. Geneva is a French-speaking canton of Switzerland, on the border with France, not more than a few kilometers from downtown.

Within the environs of Geneva we find, today, thousands of the world's best-trained and most highly educated physicists hard at work. In a metaphorical sense, they have become the enchanted dwarves, the "Nibelungen" of the ancient Norse pagan religion who lived in a mystical region called Nibelheim, where they mined and toiled in the bowels of the earth. They ultimately created, from the gold of the Rhine, a ring of enormous magical power for whoever possessed it. It is here in Geneva that the metaphorical Nibelungen, the modern-day particle physicists, have fabricated, deep in the bowels of the earth, a mighty ring of their own.

The physicists are real and their ring is real. It is not made of gold but rather of tons of steel, copper, aluminum, nickel, and titanium, enclosed within enormous vats of super-cooled liquid helium, decorated with the most resplendent and powerful electronics to be found on Planet Earth. With the mighty ring near Geneva, some 300 feet underground, the scientists painstakingly toil hard into the early morning hours. The product of their labor is not gold but the creation of a new form of matter, far, far more valuable than gold and never before seen in this world. While the Nibelungen ultimately unleashed magical powers to the bearers of their ring, the physicists are revealing, for the first time, hitherto unseen, mysterious, and ultimate powers, the forces of nature, forces that have sculpted the entire universe in all things from galaxies to stars, humans to DNA, atoms to quarks.

The ring near Geneva is nothing less than the most powerful particle accelerator on Planet Earth. It is called the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. It belongs to CERN, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research). CERN belongs to Europe and is the largest physics laboratory on Earth, conducting basic research into the inner structure and behavior of matter. Produced in the LHC are the most energetic collisions between subatomic particles ever achieved by humans in a laboratory. In its simplest terms, the LHC is the world's most powerful microscope, and it is now the foundry of the "Higgs boson," whimsically known as the "God Particle."

The entire undertaking of constructing and operating the LHC and harvesting its new form of matter, with its far-reaching results for the science of physics and the human understanding of the laws of nature, will ultimately bestow enormous economic power and prestige to its bearers, the countries of Europe that heroically toiled to build and who now operate the powerful ring. And to an extent, the US will benefit for contributing some funding and collaborating in the effort.

But the great LHC and its modern and grand scientific triumph for Europe exists in large measure because the US screwed up big time.


The US botched an even greater undertaking to build an even bigger ring, deep in the heart of Texas, in a picturesque small farm town called Waxahachie, about forty miles south of Dallas, some twenty years ago.

The story of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) is a long and winding tale, fraught with eager anticipation; then missteps and setbacks; abounding with technical, political, and fiscal difficulties; and in the end leaving dashed hopes and careers behind. It pains us to think about it all now. The SSC was a grand and noble undertaking, and it would have been the ultimate jewel in the crown of American—no, worldwide—scientific and industrial prowess, a reassertion of that great Yankee can-do know-how of yore. But alas, the SSC died a stillborn death in 1993.

It is the height of irony that at the very same time the SSC perished, several major revolutions were occurring in other spheres that had a common genealogy, all deriving from and driven by basic, non-directed research in modern science. The community of scholars, known as the academic economists, who hang out at such places as MIT, The University of Chicago, Princeton, and other vaulted ivory towers, were finally comprehending, in detail, what it is that actually causes economies to grow and prosper.

Astonishingly, over the 200 years since Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, the simple question "What makes economies grow?" had not been answered. Why had the seething misery of the 1820s Dickensian London given way to the hustling, bustling world center of prosperity in the Victorian London of the 1890s? Even the first modern Nobel Prize–winning economist, the great Paul Samuelson—with whose world-renowned textbook many of us slugged out Economics 101—had predicted that after World War II the Great Depression would return. But it didn't. Why not? The opposite happened, as we entered a time of growth and prosperity that lasted to the end of the twentieth century. Why?

Using a modern mathematical theory developed in the 1950s by the Nobel economist Robert Solow, it became possible to calibrate the spectacular growth of the global post–World War II economy. It was found that the spectacular growth was not due to the usual economic activity of bank lending and gambling on commodities futures. There was something else most definitely driving the boom. Some sort of "exogenous input," as Solow called it, was driving the creation of new businesses and new high-quality jobs aplenty. In fact, using Solow's sophisticated mathematical economic model, one could calculate that 80 percent of the postwar growth was coming from this mysterious exogenous input. But what exactly was the exogenous input?

The answer came in the 1990s, just as the SSC was being terminated, largely by the efforts a young and somewhat maverick member of the priesthood of economists named Paul Romer. The answer is almost obvious, yet it took more than 200 years from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations to figure it out. The answer is (drumroll): economies grow because of investment in science! Basic science, applied science, all science. All scientific research pays a handsome dividend, and the more science the better. One should invest in all sciences at once, from green science to hard cutting-steel science, from biology to physics. One should invest in a diversified portfolio. If you want to have a great economy, with jobs and prosperity for all, then you must spend your money on basic science. In fact, there is virtually no limit to the return on your investment. And, there is virtually no other way to do it. If you must practice austerity, whatever you do, don't cut the science budgets. And if you really spend enough money on science, you won't need to have austerity!

The fact that science drives economic growth is almost obvious to most people (certainly obvious to physicists and their neighbors), yet it took the eggheads of economics more than 200 years to figure it out on their terms. This is a very good thing because it provides a firm foundation to the relationship of science to society and human activities, which in turn provides a basis for making public policy for the investment in science by governments and for incentives to collaborate. Whatever one may think of the actual "science of economics," we believe that Solow's and Romer's (and others') discovery—that economic growth is driven by science—is right and true. When we think of all the many times our colleagues have heroically boarded flights to Washington, DC, to go argue for more science spending with their congressmen, only to return exhausted and disillusioned, we wonder if perhaps they should have also visited the Federal Reserve, where they may have found more sympathetic ears.


It's not hard to see the "exogenous input" of science into our economy at work. In fact, and again in the ironic 1990s, perhaps the grandest example of all was playing out. In 1989, a young, obscure, and virtually unknown computer scientist at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee, wrote a project proposal to the laboratory's Computing Division, at which he was employed. Berners-Lee proposed to develop a "distributed information system." Now what, you may ask, is a "distributed information system"? Is it what you get when you throw your unbound PhD dissertation up in the air on a windy day? Even Berners-Lee's boss may have been similarly confused and might have written on the cover of the proposal, "Vague, but exciting," as he gave the green light to the project. Little did he know that he would have just unleashed the greatest information revolution humanity has ever seen and which today garners many trillions of dollars worth of new gross domestic product per year for all the people on Planet Earth.

Tim Berners-Lee conceived of the basic tools that could meet the demand for information sharing over computer networks, initially only between particle physicists, all over the world. He founded the World Wide Web, which has now expanded far beyond the geekish community of particle physicists. It has changed the way we all live, work, and even think. By Christmas of 1990, Berners-Lee and associates had defined the Web's basic concepts, those funny names like "URL," "http," and "html" (never have such cryptic acronyms been typed by so many in such little time and on such a grand scale). They had written the first "browser" and stuff called "server software." The World Wide Web was soon up and running.

In 1991, an early Web system was running for the particle physics community for which it was originally developed. It rapidly began to spread through the academic world of the particle physicists to Fermilab, to the Stanford Linear Accelerator, to Brookhaven National Lab, to the University of Illinois, and beyond, as a wide range of universities and research laboratories started to use it. In 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois released its Mosaic "browser," the first modern window-style navigator for the Web that could display in-line pictures and that was easy to install and run on ordinary PCs and Macintosh® computers. A steady trickle of new "websites" soon became a torrential flood.

The world's First International Conference on the World-Wide Web was held at CERN in May 1994 and was hailed as the "Woodstock of the Web." And although Al Gore took some heat for claiming to have "invented the Internet," he did sponsor the key legislation, passed in 1991, that made the ARPANET a high-speed data transmission network, open to the general public. This largely stimulated the usage of the Web and subsequent development of the browsers, as well as new software languages for the Internet, and catapulted the accessibility and ease of use of the Internet for everyone. Soon there would be Yahoo!®, Google®, Amazon®, and countless businesses and exploits and things to browse on the Web, and vast web-based commercial activity, from finding a mate to buying a house or ordering the best coffee and doughnuts. The Web is now blended into the entire worldwide telecommunications system. The economic valuation and impact of the World Wide Web is inestimable.

The Internet and World Wide Web were direct consequences of basic research in the science of particle physics. Particle physics is a worldwide science involving large teams of many people collaborating on single projects, and it was in dire need of a worldwide information-sharing system. It provided the unique and essential paradigm for the development of the World Wide Web. If US particle physics received a mere 0.01 percent (a hundredth of a penny on the dollar) of the tax revenue per year on the cash flow it has generated by inventing the World Wide Web, the Superconducting Super Collider would have been built in Waxahachie, it would have discovered the Higgs boson ten years ago, and we'd now be well on to the next machines—electron colliders, very large proton colliders, and a veritable star-ship of a particle accelerator called the Muon Collider (which we'll discuss later).


We call them our elected "leaders," but it was ultimately Congress that could not seem to find the "leadership cojones" needed at the critical moment in the SSC debacle. In a typical fit of budget austerity, concealed by faint praise for the great scientific endeavor, Congress officially killed the SSC on October 31, 1993, following a key vote in the House of Representatives on October 19. Austerity had become the modern political tool, and American science slowly began to be strangled by it. The new economic theory, indeed the obvious fact of growth driven by scientific research, got, and still gets, no traction on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

Upon perusing the 103rd Congressional Record from 1993 (HR8213-24), we find some of the ironic testimony and the prevailing ill winds of that time. We have provided a fictional caricature here to illustrate the gist of it all—any resemblance to real testimony or persons is merely shockingly accidental:

Hon. Mr. X:

"Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that I am stirred into reluctant opposition of any further funding for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). The Superconducting Super Collider would indeed be the largest and highest-energy particle accelerator in the world, and it may indeed be the largest scientific facility and allow for the largest and most profound physics experiments ever done. It would even ensure America's lead in science and technology and innovation well into the next century and beyond. Indeed, it would stimulate our best and brightest youth to consider science as a career and to develop a sustainable future for all of us. This unique research tool could perhaps unlock some of nature's greatest mysteries and give us a better understanding of our entire universe. Who knows what new inventions and spin-off products it may lead to, and what brilliant young minds will be inspired and how it will vastly improve our lagging science education system? If we're ever going to have a Starship Enterprise in the future, we'll certainly need a Super Collider today. The project would also attract some of the best and brightest physicists and scientists from all the nations around the world to the United States, compensating for our pathetically meager funding for scientific education here at home, further leading to the development of new critical technologies, and securing America's leadership position in fundamental physics research for the next century. Why, it would even help promote peace on Earth!

However, with the mounting federal budget deficit (not to mention severe pressure from my majority whip), it has become increasingly difficult over the past couple of years for fiscal conservatives such as myself to vote for any expensive scientific endeavor. We'll support better technologies for oil drilling, but a Super Collider is just too hard for me to support. (I really haven't a clue what one is.) Federal spending has to be prioritized, and this has been steadily eroding my support for the SSC. We have to get on with starving the beast of a federal government that has such a voracious appetite.

Voting against the Superconducting Super Collider is, for me, a very difficult decision. Much of the SSC's research and development is being conducted in colleges and universities in my own district. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that this is a prudent and responsible vote. If other nations will benefit from discoveries and technology produced by the SSC, why shouldn't they contribute to its construction? Or build their own? The Superconducting Super Collider is simply too expensive for the United States to build on our own. And I will not raise taxes on my overburdened wealthy constituents. The economy can only grow by the efforts of American businessmen. In fact, I'm planning to sign a brand new "pledge," crafted by my dear friend, Mr. Grover Norquist, that I will never vote to raise taxes again.

Excerpted from BEYOND THE GOD PARTICLE by LEON M. LEDERMAN. Copyright © 2013 Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate (Batavia, IL) is the author of the highly acclaimed Quantum Physics for Poets and Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (both coauthored with Christopher T. Hill), as well as The God Particle (with Dick Teresi). He has served as the editor of Portraits of Great American Scientists and a contributor to Science Literacy for the Twenty-First Century. He is formerly the Resident Scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Pritzker Professor of Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and he is director emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Christopher T. Hill, PhD (Batavia, IL) is the coauthor with Leon M. Lederman of Quantum Physics for Poets and Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe. He is a theoretical physicist (Scientist III) and the former head of Theoretical Physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

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Beyond the God Particle 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
judiflorida More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend and technical , good for the scientific mind
HenryBeemis More than 1 year ago
After previously reading The God Particle I was hoping to get a follow-up lesson on current topics in physics. I think I may have, but I'm not sure. This book was difficult to get through. I was taking notes, rereading chapters, and referring to other sources, especially with the Notes and Appendix sections. As a stand alone physics source, I would not recommend it. But if you want to do the work to get through it this book may be worth you while.