Nobel Prize-winner Feynman, considered the father of modern physics, was an electrifying and influential educator. "Six Easy Pieces" is based on the most accessible chapters in his groundbreaking book, "Lectures on Physics" (1963), which eventually ran to three volumes. These "easy pieces" cover key topics with a minimum of mathematics and a wealth of excellent analogies and vivid descriptions. Feynman's explanations build in momentum, lifting his audience over tricky concepts and definitions so that it can appreciate the rarefied beauty of particle physics. He defines elementary particles and tracks their interactions; explains how physics relates to other sciences, from chemistry to psychology; elucidates the theory of gravitation; introduces quantum mechanics; and answers questions such as "What is energy?" Readers can even hear Feynman in action: an audiotape or CD can be ordered with the book
While Feynman is certainly a hard act to follow, Kane, a physics professor who has taught physics to nonscience majors, has become fluent in explaining what exactly particle physicists do and what their discoveries mean. Kane believes that the modern era of particle physics began in 1910 with Ernest Rutherford's subatomic particle experiments. His discoveries laid the groundwork for Fermilab and the detection of the unstable and elusive top quark. A "phenomenologist," Kane emphasizes the interplay between mathematics and experimental evidence, taking time to describe how colliders and detectors work and to break down the standard theory into comprehensible chunks. He interprets the precise, if seemingly quirky, language of physics and explains the "unique and unchanging" properties of the various particles. Kane also reports on how developments in particle physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology are becoming increasingly connected, enhancing our comprehension of the workings of the universe. While the realm of particle physics is one of constant motion and transition, and far beyond our experience or intuition, Kane helps us envision it all as best we can, and we're happy to have quarks and leptons dancing in our heads.