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Dr. C. G. Oakley (Dunstable, Bedfordshire United Kingdom)

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Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
by Ian Sample
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Repulsive hype, 11 Nov. 2010
One can tell very easily that the author of this book is not a physicist. A physicist would never come up with a phrase like "It was time for a new generation of physicists to go further into the quantum world and discover the origin of mass" in reference to the attempts to progress fundamental physics immediately after the war (end of chapter 2).

Finding "the origin of mass" was not, repeat not the motivation of the scientists involved. Allow me to explain: by 1948 physicists had the impressive and experimentally-verified achievements of quantum mechanics and special relativity under their belts. Quantum mechanics provided a framework for describing the sub-atomic world in great detail. What it did not do, though, was to account for the creation and destruction of particles. For that quantum field theory was required. This, though superficially correct, had the unfortunate tendency to give numbers that were not merely wrong, but infinite when examined in more detail and by the time of the famous 1948 Shelter Island conference most had given up on it. The young Feynman, though, presented a workaround which was simple to use and swept the problems conveniently under the carpet. Though the old generation - Dirac most notably - were not buying into it, Feynman's generation, and the subsequent ones, have been happy to lower their scientific standards, and instead of requiring their theories to be consistent ("finite" in their terminology) it was good enough for them to be "renormalizable" (i.e. having a carpet to sweep the problems under). Feynman's contribution was to quantum electrodynamics - photons interacting with charged fermions, but his theory could not be extended to cover the weak interaction because, unlike the photon, the hypothetical particles mediating the weak interaction needed to be massive, and quantum field theories with massive vector particles were not renormalizable. Later it was demonstrated that gauge theories, which are based on massless vector particles, remained renormalizable when the Higgs mechanism was applied. The Higgs mechanism was the most contrived part of the quantum field theory course I attended 30 years ago. It is actually a piece of classical, not quantum field theory and is based on an added scalar field (the Higgs field) that enables one to generate a mass term for the vector field without, I believe, upsetting renormalizability.

Note, all writers of popular science articles and books, that the Higgs mechanism provides no "explanation" for the Higgs particle itself having mass or of fundamental fermions (electrons, quarks, etc.) having mass. In any case, finding an explanation for mass per se is just not what it is all about!

If you want a good telling of the story of fundamental physics (and you do not want to attend any quantum field theory courses), then the place to go is "The Second Creation" by Robert Crease and Charles Mann, and definitely not this book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2012 2:20 AM BST

Lady Chatterley's Lover: Cartoons
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Cartoons
by Hunt Emerson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing deserves the Hunt Emerson treatment more than this mediocre novel, 9 Nov. 2010
When I first saw this in W H Smith in Hemel Hempstead God knows how many years ago, I knew that it was my kind of book. The original cover had Lady Chatterley riding Mellors like a jockey, complete with riding crop, and the title had the word "Lover!" in enormous red letters above her head. But what really clinched it for me was the legend "Not for sale to wives and servants" at the top. Open the cover, and you will then see a bee tripping out on the nectar from a ridiculously-sensuous-looking lily-like flower. This sets the whole tone of the graphic novel. D H Lawrence, in my humble one, was a man whose ego was vastly bigger than his talent - the opposite of Hunt Emerson, and the original Lady Chatterley's Lover is not so much shocking as tedious. Writers of this ilk are deserving of parody, but Hunt Emerson has gone one better - he just told the story exactly as it is, enabling the reader to see, inter alia, the ludicrousness of the original author's attitude toward sex for themselves. And we do not have to put up with Lawrence's windy style, either.

I challenge anyone not to crack up when they read pages 27 & 28:

"At first she is passive, as before ... but then there awakens in her new, strange thrills rippling inside her ... like a flapping overlapping of soft flames ... like bells rippling ... His climax comes ... hers does not ..."

Then you turn the page. The ENTIRE PAGE is devoted to her climax, which includes a toaster ("Toastie poos") popping up and a rocket ship, and as much other sensual imagery that could be crammed into the space available.

Hunt Emerson's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is also excellent, but this is still my favourite.

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers
A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers
by Lawrence G. McDonald
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, 12 Feb. 2010
First, the bad news: (1) The author's pre-Lehman life story, although much more interesting than average, is not really relevant. (2) The book is somewhat repetitive. (3) A bit more emotional detachment on the author's part would have been appreciated. (4) He was not *that* much of an insider, having, for example, never met the firm's chairman and CEO. (5) Shorting stocks and corporate bonds is not a philanthropic activity: the author gives the impression that somehow it is OK provided that the target is not his own company. (6) The style, which is breathless and full of cliches, can be annoying.

All minor gripes - especially as I thoroughly enjoyed the account of the author's route to the Lehman trading floor - because the truth is that if you want a clear account of the disastrous consequences of the Financial Services Industry forgetting that its main purpose is to provide a service, then it is hard to see how you can do better than this.

I worked in the Financial Industry in London (Barclays, UBS, HSBC, Nomura) and Lehman had a reputation for being Goldman Sachs wannabes - just as aggressive and selfish, but, unfortunately, not as smart. Now we know where Goldman-envy can lead.

Sub-prime lending was the main cause the disaster described herein, and I was left wondering, more than anything else, how the rating agencies could POSSIBLY have assigned AAA ratings to sub-prime mortgage bonds, and how investors coud POSSIBLY have seen this as reasonable.

But ... I doubt that the investment banking community has really learned anything from all of this.

The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas [DVD] [2000]
The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Mark Addy
Price: £3.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flintstones at its best, 28 Jan. 2007
Don't expect subtlety, or anything, but as Flintstones go, this is about as good as it gets. A clever script with innumerable visual jokes should ensure that you will be enjoying this treat as much as your children.

The film is a prequel explaining how Fred and Barney met Wilma and Betty. Most of the credit here goes to these principals, who bring a unique charm to their roles, and although I didn't quite see Wilma like that, I was soon totally convinced. Alan Cummings, although truly awful as Mick Jagged - perhaps intentionally - is wonderfully smarmy as the Great Gazoo, the alien gratuitously, but entertainingly inserted into the drama. All in all, a cinematic and musical delight to be savoured.

Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
by Peter Woit
Edition: Hardcover

31 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air, 21 Jan. 2006
Looking at the various popular science books published on the topic of fundamental physics in recent years, one might be forgiven for getting confused between what is scientific fact and what is science fiction. We have grown used to seeing top theoretical physicists enthusing about Superstrings, extra dimensions, wormholes and time travel, all of which - on the basis of current evidence - belong in the latter category, but rarely do we get an assessment of the state of this particular art that concentrates on what is known rather than what the speaker/writer would like to believe.
Dr. Woit takes the view, as do I, that if we want Science Fiction, then we can watch Star Trek or read Isaac Asimov - these people, after all, are the professionals, and do a better job at this than Harvard Professors.
What I would like to concentrate on therefore is not "where can I let my imagination take me?" but the ultimately far more interesting - to a scientist at least - "what is Mother Nature trying to tell us?"
To do this requires a certain humility, a certain coolness, and above all the ability to exercise judgement. It is easy to be critical of other people's ideas, but to be critical of one's own without causing the creative flow to dry up altogether, is the real challenge.
The title of the book derives from a comment made by Wolfgang Pauli - one of the founders of quantum mechanics, and arguably someone who took the criticality too far - who, upon hearing a half-baked idea from a student, remarked, "Your theory is not correct. In fact, your theory is not even wrong. Your theory makes no predictions at all."
Unfortunately, though, however much the enormous efforts expended on Superstring theory in the last twenty years may have pushed back the boundaries of mathematics, "not even wrong" is a fair and accurate assessment of its worth as a physical theory.
If theoretical particle physics is to dig itself out of the rut, it must start with an honest assessment of its achievements to date. This is the main thing that Woit provides in this book. The first part is spent describing the so-called "standard model" of particle physics. Most of this material one may find elsewhere - most entertainingly in Crease and Mann's excellent, "The Second Creation" - but it is when the book gets to the chapter entitled, "Beyond the Standard Model" that it really starts to get going. Woit is not just about saying what these attempts were, but also why they were tried, and where they led. Although Superstring theory is the main focus of this analysis, it is by no means the only one: also explored are such topics as Grand Unified Theories (GUTs), Technicolor, Lattice Gauge Theories and many others, and all with an honesty that the advocates would admit only if wired up to a Polygraph.
This book is not the end of the story. It is, on the contrary, a beginning. It forms a basis from which the younger generation of scientists can decide what is and is not worth examining. The point is just that if you are going to heal yourself, the first thing you have to do is to acknowledge that you are ill in the first place. To have an account of the state of the art free of hype and unwarranted self-promotion is a major contribution.
I should also add that, like "The Second Creation", "Not Even Wrong" generally avoids mathematical equations and can be read by anyone.
It should be required reading for every researcher coming into the field of particle physics.

What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character
What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character
by Richard P. Feynman
Edition: Paperback

14 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feynman protects some NASA careers, 29 May 2005
This book is pretty funny. Although NASA knew exactly what had caused the Challenger disaster, they found it convenient to lay a trail for Feynman, enabling him to rediscover what they had known all along. To what purpose? you might ask. Simple: so they could then say, "My God! So it was the O-rings then! Thank-you for enlightening us, O Great One!" and thereby protect a few careers. What gets me, though, and what comes through clearly in the book, is that at no point does Feynman ever consider the possibility that anyone less brilliant than himself could have reached the same conclusions. This no doubt made him the perfect stooge.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2014 10:10 PM BST

Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton
Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton
by Ralph Leighton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book: it's entertaining, 27 Jan. 2005
If you have ever wondered how a dishonest, drunken, whoremongering, bar-room-brawling junkie can also be a Nobel-prize-winning physicist then this book will provide the answer.
At least Feynman wasn't boring. Considering how many physicists nowadays are, this is no small thing.

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