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Massive: The Hunt for the God Particle [Hardcover]

Ian Sample
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Jun 2010

In the early 1960s, three groups of physicists, working independently in different countries, stumbled upon an idea that would change physics and fuel the imagination of scientists for decades. That idea was the ‘God particle’, or Higgs boson – to find it would be to finally understand the origins of mass - the last building block of life itself.

Weaving together the personal stories and intense rivalries of the teams of scientists searching for the particle, Massive is a tale of grand ambition, trans-Atlantic competition, clashing egos and occasionally spectacular failures. From the giant particle colliders built to further the scientists’ quest to the political fallout of budget blowouts and debates over whether the search might even destroy the universe, it is an epic story of imagination, personal ambition, sub-atomic exploration and global significance.

Spanning more than four decades and dozens of false starts, dead ends and expensive mistakes, award-winning science writer Ian Sample has had unprecedented access to the key players in this story, including the reclusive theoretical physicist Professor Peter Higgs, the scientist after whom the particle is named. Until now, the story of their search has never been told, but with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, we may be on the cusp of discovering the particle and with it the very origin of mass. Whichever way you look at it, this story is massive.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books; 1st edition (17 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190526495X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905264957
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 743,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'A fast-moving narrative ... a great scientific adventure.' --Frank Close, Focus Magazine

'Fine reportage ... 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.'
--Graham Farmelo, Guardian

`Wondering what all the hype over the Higgs boson is about? Look no further ... A hundred anecdotes bring the towering figures of particle physics and their key discoveries to life.' --New Scientist

"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."
-- Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here

Book Description

The dramatic and gripping account of how one big idea has brought life and order to the universe, sparking the greatest race science has ever seen

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on difficult topic for general public 12 July 2010
By The Kid
Great book on a timely topic that is hard to write for general public. If you are looking for a book to explain what all the fuss is over the "God Particle" this is the one to read. Dr. Sample does a great job of bringing together the history, theory, and experimental aspects of the mass mechanism for everyone to understand. Everyone reads about the LHC and finding the "Higgs Boson" but little is written about the history and how this came to be.

It is a quick read and flows well with antidotes about the people involved that are pulled out through extensive interviews and research. Certainly there will be an updated version of this once the results are confirmed from Fermi or LHC and Nobels are awarded - along with the associated controversies.

Strengths of the book include:
1) Well written and easy to read
2) Quick read
3) Handles tough topic for non-physicist
4) Sets up well for next edition
5) Well researched with great interviews of subjects (Weinberg for example)

While the book is very Peter Higgs' centric in chapters three and four that probably makes sense given the name of the boson and need for the story to focus on someone. The years that Higgs spend after the 1964 papers toiling with an extension and defending the findings were interesting while the other theorists moved on to other work in the USA and Belgium. Higgs was not actually the first to work on this since Guralnik and Hagen were working with Gilbert on the issue well before 1964. But overall the book is a great overview of the theory work that is not often shared.

I am looking forward to how the story ends outside of the book, the USA edition, and the certain versions from Dr. Sample that will follow.

Great book. Great effort.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of a great quest 12 July 2010
The Schleswig-Holstein question was one of the conundrums of nineteenth century
politics. Lord Palmerston once remarked that only three people had ever
understood it - one of whom was dead, and another was in an asylum. He
himself was the third, but he had forgotten what it was. The significance of
the God particle, aka the Higgs boson, could be Schleswig's modern
equivalent. In the 1990s Science Minister William Waldegrave offered a
bottle of champagne to anyone who could explain the Higgs boson's
significance on a side of A4. The winning entry compared its allure to that
felt by Tory MPs for then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Guardian
journalist Ian Sample takes a little longer than a side of A4, but does an
outstanding job of narrating the unfinished search for this elusive particle,
which (if it exists) is many times heavier than a proton and lives for only a
tiny fraction of a second before vanishing. Its short lifetime means that
scientists cannot look directly for it, but must search for longer lasting
entities into which it might decay.

The search is not yet finished. It will probably be at least five years
before accelerators in Switzerland and the USA give us a definite answer, and
there is a definite chance that the Higgs boson does not exist. Stephen
Hawking has bet $100 that it will never be found. A measure of Sample's
success is that his book does not leave the reader with a sense of
anticlimax. This is a whodunit without the indentification of the murderer,
or even the certainty that a murder has been committed - surely a recipe for
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By x6gas
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the story of the search for the Higgs Boson - the tell-tale particle predicted by the theory of the Higgs mechanism which physicists believe is important in explaining why things are heavy.

To tell the story of the search, Ian Sample tells the story of some of the minds behind it, embroidering the tale with colourful anecdotes gleaned from the many interviews he held with those involved. To try to discover the Higgs Boson, the largest and most complex machines known to man have been created and developed and this is also the story of the technological development of, and the political wrangling behind, these particle colliders culminating in the early experiments performed by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

It is an engaging read despite the complex nature of the subject matter.

Sample is an awarding winning science journalist and those that have read his work in the Guardian will recognise the entertaining, easy to read, jovial style. The quest for the Higgs Boson is at the vanguard of current physics research - which is complicated stuff - and Sample does a very credible job of explaining in lay terms why it is important and in doing so of placing the whole of modern physics in context. He does such a good job, in fact, that I not only recommend this book to anyone who has heard about particle physics or the LHC and wants to know more, but suggest that it is required reading for anyone embarking on undergraduate studies in physics for whom it is a great book for the summer vacation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good story
Good history of the hunt for the boson. A bit light on the actual physics behind it but the 50 year story from Higgs (and others) first theorising the mechanism to the building of... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive - Ian Sample
I really loved this book. The first part was really entertaining and managed to give a story-like account of the search of the Higgs, from it's original conception to the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by CM
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Although i haven't finished the book yet i'm finding a great read. The author really has a gift for making very tough concepts a lot easir to digest. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by Stevo
2.0 out of 5 stars Good description of particles, first half of book is worth reading
I liked the first half of the book, it clearly explained the major advances in Particle Physics over the last one hundred and fifty years. Read more
Published on 28 April 2011 by Hugh Claffey
4.0 out of 5 stars Good science and an easy read.
This covers the history of particle physics with lots of science and politics as well as some interesting anecdotes about individual scientists. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2011 by plot hound
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite big
This is a highly entertaining book that with Ian Sample's "interesting" style conveys a history of particle physics in easy to understand terms. Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2010 by Noah Neartheshops
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much gee-whiz
An interesting account but too much gee-whiz hero-worship. Every physicist is either a genius or brilliant and usually both. Read more
Published on 30 Aug 2010 by Geejay
1.0 out of 5 stars Not massive
I was extremely upset and disappointed by this book.

It is not "massive" at all.

It is the same size as a normal book.

I have sent it back.
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by Grumpy
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
This book tells the tale of advanced research in particle physics over the last hundred years and a little bit more. It is clear, entertaining and quite a quick read. Read more
Published on 4 July 2010 by Hugh Noble
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