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Behind the Scenes of the Universe: From the Higgs to Dark Matter
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 January 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Any book attempting to reveal the secrets of the sub-atomic universe, including the mysteries surrounding the Higgs Boson and Dark Matter, should ideally have an author who is both highly qualified in theoretical physics as well as being presently engaged at the centre of particle physics research. The author of this book is both. Gianfranco Bertone is a professor of astro-physics at Amsterdam University where his research involves the relationship between particle physics and cosmology. He gained his PhD at Oxford University and the Astrophysics Institute in Paris and for a while worked at the Fermi Accelerator Laboratory.

Bertone is no dry academic, he writes with a refreshing freedom, in an engaging style which is easily comprehensible to anyone without a scientific background. The main subject of the book is Dark Matter and Bertone introduces the reader to most of the current theories which attempt to explain Dark Matter and also the theories which make predictions for its discovery. The book describes the extremely sensitive experiments which are going on in international laboratories, often located several kilometres below ground, performed by many of the world's leading physicists. Bertone tries to take the theoretical a little further by suggesting that either some of these theories should be discarded and new ones conceived, or the actual discovery of Dark Matter and its implications will bring in a potentially new era, a paradigm shift, in physics and cosmology. Little of this detailed research actually reaches the world's media and so the book takes one behind the scenes of this great `cosmic show'.

Among the subjects investigated and explained in the book and their relationship to the quest for the discovery of Dark Matter are: the Adromeda Galaxy rotation, gravitational lensing, the Standard Model of particle physics, General and Special Theories of Relativity, WIMPS, the tensor-vector-scalar theory, bullet cluster, fermions, bosons, neutralinos, Higgs Boson, supersymmetry, black holes, particle acceleration, the Large Hadron Collider, scintillation signal, Xenon and Argon experiments, ADMX experiment, gamma-ray telescopes, dark matter halos, antimatter, sinusoidal behaviour, the dark sector of physics, and many more. The book describes the investigations into Dark Matter that have taken place in the historical past, those currently being undertaken, and some possibilities awaiting in the future. Exactly what is Dark Matter? What is its nature and what are its characteristics and properties, if any? Bertone poses the many questions physicists are grappling with and attempts to find some answers.

Bertone is not afraid to introduce the reader to concepts derived from philosophy, the arts and literature, and he occasionally quotes from a wide range of source material, from Zen and the the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to James Joyce, from Damascius, the Byzantine philosopher, to Descartes the famous French one, even quoting Bilbo in The Hobbit, Aristotle and Confucius. This enriches the text rather than diluting its underlying serious scientific content, which is the relentless pursuit of understanding Dark Matter.

If the structure of the gross material nature of the mysterious universe interests you, and you want to read an overview of the present state of investigations into its principle missing component... Dark Matter... then you will find this relatively concise book informative, intriguing and rewarding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 9 February 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very short book for the price (currently £20), it comes in at 160 pages – but they’re small pages, with large font and double line spacing. It can be easily read in two evenings or a couple of commutes.

The idea is that the author gives you a whistle stop tour of the current hot topics in physics and cosmology, with ‘dark matter’ being the overall thread. The book claims to be non-technical, but it’s definitely not a Dummies Guide, there is some assumption of prior knowledge and familiarity with terms. If this is your first foray into cosmology popular science you’ll struggle a little. It doesn’t help that the book doesn’t have a glossary.

Content wise the book feels like a collection of expanded blog entries. The short chapters don’t always flow well together, and it feels like the author wrote a book about bits and pieces that interested him, rather than give a complete overview of current thinking. I found the book quite a hard slog even though it’s terribly short and on a subject I’m interested in. It felt like there was a lot of padding going on (classic literary quotes, irrelevant ‘let us pause to consider, maybe’ type diversions) just to make enough content to classify this as a book rather than a pamphlet.

This book is undeniably a reasonable resource on Dark Matter and wider issues, but I didn’t find it a pleasure to read.
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a relatively short volume (about 160 pages), Bertone attempts to explain to the non-specialist the subject of dark matter, covering the significance of dark matter, the reasons to believe it exists, and research techniques to discover the signals from it.
Obviously it's a tough task explaining cutting-edge particle physics to the layman, but in fairness Bertone gives it a good go. However, as I find with many physics texts aimed at the non-expert it dwells on some fairly basic concepts but then quickly leaps into complexity. The description of particles in the standard model fell into this category for me; it explains simple atomic structure in some detail, describes the standard model (so far so good), but rapidly lost me in supersymmetry.
With all the talk of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), there is no definition or description of what a hadron actually is; obviously it's difficult for an expert to put himself in the shoes of a non-expert. There was also no explanation of the unit of particle masses (GeV) as measured in particle colliders. This was a very key section for understanding and for me was the most disappointing chapter of the text. In fairness though it was good in other areas.
The Indexing was also a little bizarre; one can find references to all sorts of artists (many Italian!), but try looking up 'hadron', 'muon', 'lepton' etc, etc (ie. anything useful!). This is probably not the author's fault because this is often performed by the publishers (and in this case not well!)
I guess if particle astrophysics were easy, we'd all be doing it!!
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although I have a (rusty) physics degree behind me, so am perhaps a little overqualified as target readership, much of what this lovely compact book elaborates is newer information than my late-90s education could have incorporated and I particularly enjoyed seeing how the `theories of the day' at my time of keenest interest have evolved (or died!) in light of the last 15 years of discovery.

Bertone writes well, enjoying the occasional artistic flourish which prove mostly successful in capturing his enthusiasm for the subject. His explanations are generally low in jargon and devoid of mathematics which satisfy the basic requirements of a lay science book although if you've never had any exposure to the peculiarities of particle physics then there are parts that could be hard going simply due to the variety of terms that aren't easy to relate to daily-life experience.

If I have one criticism of the tone of this book it is that Bertone comes from the insider club of dark matter research and, perhaps, his certainty of particular assumptions might not be so well supported by consensus in the wider realm of theoretical physics. A lot rides on what can be ascertained from the next generation of experimental measurements and I am delighted to have been brought up to speed in such an engaging manner.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Recently all the news about physics has focussed on the results from the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs Boson. This book puts that search into context and shows how that is just the start for a bigger search for the elusive dark matter than makes up 1/4 of the universe. The book describes clearly and in as jargon free way as possible the reasons why we know that dark matter exists and then suggests some possible suspects for dark matter. The author then explains how the LHC experiments fit into the search for dark matter along with other less publicised experiments outside of the LHC that look for its effects. The book is written in an accessible way and it is not the hard core theoretical physics you sometimes find. For me the text is a bit crowded on the page, especially when there are lots of footnotes and some of the illustrations seem to be superfluous. The author also likes to often quote from poetry or works of fiction and sometimes this seems like he is trying too hard to appeal to a wider audience.

I think that it is a good lay introduction to the field and I cannot think of another comparable book that is as accessible and so if Dark Matter catches your attention give it a read.
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on 23 January 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Physics at the moment has a Galilean or an Einsteinian feeling to it - our understanding of the world is shifting at such a remarkable pace and new knowledge has the potential to transform the way we see the world. Communicating these changes to those not at the forefront of physics (like me) is no easy task.

And yet Bertone achieves this remarkably well. Writing about the search for dark matter, he covers much of the ground in a very accessible way, weaving in references to literature along the way. He describes the three major ways that we are searching for dark matter, including through the Large Hadron Collider, underground detectors and space-based apparatus.

Occasionally I would have liked a little more detail - Bertone sometimes poses questions and asides that he doesn't really answer. All the same, he strikes an excellent balance between covering the ground and not providing so much detail that the book becomes impossibly dense - it is very readable.

All-in-all this is a very valuable addition to any collection of science books - the way things are going it will be obselete in a few years, but for now it is well worth the read.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A subject I find absolutely fascinating; a subject so rich and complex that every attempt I've ever made to read about it, to learn more, has been stymied by the complicated nature of the subject and the - to me - impenetrable language of physics. Behind the Scenes was refreshingly different. Gianfranco Bertone has managed to make this difficult topic completely readable and almost entirely understandable. It's been my bedtime reading for the past week, and I not only understood almost all of it, I actively enjoyed it too. I have no idea how good this book would to be to someone who already knows their stuff, but as a lay reader and a bit of a thicky, I would highly recommended it to anyone looking for a basic grounding in a fascinating branch of physics.
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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you are like my husband and love lots of equations and Maths in your science, then this probably isn't the book for you.

However, if like me you can cope with a few equations but soon start to glaze over, or you'd rather not have any Maths to stress about, then this might just be the book about Dark matter for you!

The writer is a great communicator. He helps you understand complex ideas, although not necessarily in a scientifically "rigorous" way, but this book is written for us ordinary mortals who don't have PhDs in Astrophysics. Its for the intelligent and interested amature rather than the professional. Its a step up from the Brian Cox DVDs, and needs slow reading and thinking, but is a good read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It is taking me longer to read this than the Amazon review guidelines currently allow, (for books received as part of the Amazon Vine programme) as this is about complex subject matter for a non-astrophysicist and cosmologist.

However, despite not nearly having finished the book as I HAVE to review it, what I will say is that the writer's style is brilliant. It's possible (not being an aforementioned cosmologist etc) that REAL astros and cosmos may throw up their hands in horror, saying e−(x2 + y2) = e−r2, or even, more confusingly 'the man is WRONG in his analysis' but for a mere earth dweller, struggling to absorb the complexity of whole caboodle of the universe, the microcosm and the macrocosm, I can only be profoundly inspired and grateful to a man who can illuminate something I can barely comprehend, without reducing me to whimpers, and a furrowed brow, wrapped in cold wet towels to encourage, so they say, clearer thinking.

Bertone manages this because he may be a scientist who talks with his fellows in arcane and complex formulae - but, he is a communicator, a writer, a spinner of images that illuminate like flashes of lightening. He uses images, quotations from scientists and poets, and his own wonderful, human, humorous touches.

So, as example, I was ENORMOUSLY cheered by his announcement that in some ways the astro/cosmos are like ancient mapmakers, trying to map a world no-one had yet sailed to, imagining the shapes at the 'edge of the world' filling the margins with drawings of imaginary beasts they believed MIGHT be there, and creating theories about this unknown world. Exactly, he says as astro/cosmo currently is - theoretical. Theory points to much of this being factual, with dark matter making sense of it all - but BUT, sometime within the next 10 years, Bertone postulates, either the theory WILL be proven, or the rulebooks partially ripped up and thinking have to start again about whatever-it-is-in-the-matter-and-general-stuff-of-space-and-time which doesn't make sense according to the rules we currently believe things function by. Much as there were elements of Newton's Laws which did not explain EVERYTHING and other theories (like relativity) were 'what made sense of that stuff which didn't make sense'

More, much more I'm sure, will be written when I understand more and have read further, but, this is undoubtedly a WONDERFUL book. Particularly as he squares the circle of a seemingly irrational divide between 'hard science' and 'soft mysticism'

To end (for now) a lovely quote by, initially Robert Wilson, founding director or the Fermi National Laboratory, who likened the construction of accelerators to the construction of cathedrals and later expanded by Leon Lederman, its director emeritus :

"Both cathedrals and accelerators are built at great expense as a matter of faith. Both provide spiritual uplift, transcendence, and, prayerfully, revelation. Of course, not all cathedrals worked"
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on 3 January 2015
I alway buy via amazon. Satisfied customer
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