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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHARM: All of it
UP: Excellent historical overview, in a sense trying to map the Feynman diagram of interacting physicists. You see how the Well-Known Names (some of which were unknown to me) worked together or on parallel tracks, met by chance, passed each other in the halls, ignored papers, picked up papers, missed hints or uncovered clues, got a Nobel Prize or were passed over for a...
Published on 23 July 2012 by Game Cat

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Covers what it says in the tiitle
The book goes into huge detail of the activities of the theoretical physicists from the 1950's to the present time. I am sure it is meticulously researched but leads to rather tedious reading for anyone only moderately interested in the politics behind the developments. I feel the author may have some bias against Abdus Salem, the only one of the protagonists I have...
Published 22 months ago by T. L. Knight


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHARM: All of it, 23 July 2012
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UP: Excellent historical overview, in a sense trying to map the Feynman diagram of interacting physicists. You see how the Well-Known Names (some of which were unknown to me) worked together or on parallel tracks, met by chance, passed each other in the halls, ignored papers, picked up papers, missed hints or uncovered clues, got a Nobel Prize or were passed over for a Nobel Prize, each contributing to the edifice currently known as the "Standard Model". Meticulous research and personal interviews by Frank Close make this an important contribution.

DOWN: The editor should have let through (or the author proposed) a few sidebars of explanation about advanced concepts. Things may become hard to follow and ideas difficult to connect without the benefit of background knowledge. Well, we have the Internet and search engines, but a formula or two or a hand-drawn diagram à la Penrose might still be of use. On the other hand, the book might have gained too much mass and become something else entirely with added details

I noticed that sometimes there is confusion as to what is being described is as it was known *then* or as it is known *now* or who is saying something to whom, demanding several re-reads of a paragraph; overuse of pronouns and unclarity in the referents may be to blame.

Footnotes are extensive (good), moved to the back of the book (okay) but do not indicate which page they annotate (bad).

BOTTOM: Bizarredly trying to explain complex number projection on page 75. By then, one had already encountered the baffling concepts of groups, gauge symmetry, spin of massless particles and whatnot.

STRANGE: The typesetter should have been told in no uncertain terms that "SU(2)xU(1)" is VERY UGLY TO READ if it is written everywhere as "SU2XU1" The only place where it is correctly typeset is in the image on page 244. Does the desire to eschew math extend to the use of parentheses?

TOP: It's only ~9 [in some fiat money unit] in hardcover. Bonk this buy button. What are you waiting for?
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable insight into the life, work and politics of Theoretical Physicists, 27 Jan 2012
By 
Lynden Hughes (Southampton, Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Frank Close has a clear engaging writing style such that this book at times takes the characteristics of a good page-turner novel. Only here the characters are real people. The author has gone to great lengths in his attempt to write an accurate history of the people and events that have led to the current search for the Higgs Particle at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva. He is open and honest in stating that he may not have got everything right. However he has clearly gone to great lengths to resolve conflicting accounts even at one stage reporting a delayed flight in part of the narrative! A number of Nobel Prize Winners are described in these pages, warts and all, together with a number of oustanding Physicists that never received the ultimate accolade. One conclusion that could be drawn is that many Theoretical Physicists are filled with arrogance and self-importance such that they have little regard to those they trample on in their quest for the prize. The non-specialist will probably be glad to learn that this book does not delve into the complex mathematics that under-pins Particle Physics. Nevertheless there is no escaping many complex ideas that will take time and very possibly internet searches to gain some understanding of what is at stake. Is it worth the time and trouble? This reader thinks it is. A large group of international Scientists are spending many billions of tax-payers hard earned cash and the tax-payer has a right to know that these funds are not being wasted as has occured with many government projects(e.g. in the UK, The National Programme for IT). Will the LHC deliver value for money? In this reader's view the answer is a definate maybe. It is not possible to predict the potential technical spin-offs that could transform the way we live and work. Two small criticisms: I would have liked to see included a comprehensive glossary together with a good quality schematic summarising the current state of knowledge in Particle Physics. However with 338 pages of text supported by 49 pages of notes covering all chapters perhaps it is unreasonable to ask for more. I have rated this book five star for the non-specialist but be prepared to be challenged with some of the detail.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Infinity Puzzle, 24 Dec 2011
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This book is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable read.

An exemplary overview of the field and as precise an historical (unbiased) narrative as you can get.

Often, when those involved write such treatises, it ends up almost autobiographical.
I recall an ex lab director once writing half a book of outstanding physics text.
Unfortunately the other half was peppered with a nauseous dose of sarcastic humour and self-glorification.
Here the author writes with a reverent intimacy while modestly removing himself away from the limelight.

Some lay-readers could find it heavy in parts - homework needs to be done.

After all, as the author points out, theoretical physics is often incomprehensible to, even, experimentalists in the field.
Classic example. The SLAC results of the late 1960s and their interpretation into the quark model via Bjorken scaling.
Here the book would have benefited from at least a paragraph to bridge the gap with the odd diagram.
Perhaps drawing analogies with early Rutherford scattering.
Indeed, if any of this terminology is unfamiliar to the reader, this is not the book for them.

Hence one star lopped for the lack of a little more background explanation in the odd place.
The book places more emphasis on the subterfuge and shenanigans of chasing Nobel honours rather than the actual physics itself.

Still, so much better than the plethora of dross out there trying to cash in on the LHC, reality TV, bandwagon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book for anyone interested in science, 17 Mar 2012
You do not have to be a nuclear physicist to read this book, I am a simple chemical engineer and although nuclear physics has always been a mystery to me I found this book totally absorbing

This is mainly a history of the incredibly competitive world of research in particle physics, not a text book full of obscure equations, but it gives you some understanding of what is happening in nature at the sub-atomic level.
It explains how mass and energy are interchangeable, why we are spending so much money on gigantic machines like the Large Hadron Collider and why physicists are so keen to find the elusive Higgs boson

I'll need to read it again to better understand some of the trickier concepts, but because this book is so well written I am really looking forward to doing just that!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical Account of the Electroweak Theory, 9 April 2012
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Infinity Puzzle (Hardcover)
Since its completion in 2008, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN has been the focus of a lot of news coverage. It is by far the largest scientific project in history, and very likely the last such project for the foreseeable future. And yet, it has been fairly difficult to explain to the general public the exact purpose of LHC and what sorts of questions are the scientists trying to answer by culling over its experimental results. One of the things that LHC is trying to find is the putative "Higgs boson," whose existence has been postulated for almost half a century, and without which much of our understanding of particle physics would be incomplete. However, the reasons for the need of the Higgs boson are very hard to express in the layman's terms. It is the particle that gives all the other particles mass, and without it (or something like it) it would be impossible to justify many of the theoretical results that have proven so incredibly insightful over the past few decades. Some popularizes of science have even resorted to calling it "the God particle," which in my opinion is one of the most unfortunate and gratuitously obscure "descriptions" of any phenomenon in all of science.

In "The Infinity Puzzle" Frank Close delves deep into the theoretical background that has lead to the postulation of the Higgs Boson. Higgs Boson turns out to be an indispensible ingredient for the theoretical formulation of the electroweak theory - the unified theory of electromagnetic and weak interactions. The modern formulation of that theory, the so-called Glashow-Weinberg-Salam model, has come at the end of a long series of abortive attempts at unification, and has been followed by even a longer succession of theoretical and experimental verifications. The discovery of the Higgs Boson would be the final validation of that model, and it would also potentially shed some light on the rest of the Standard Model of particles and fields.

This book primarily focuses on personal histories of many of the actors that have contributed to the electroweak theory and experiment, going all the way back to the middle of the twentieth century. These are fascinating personal stories that have been long overdue for a comprehensive popular treatment. Even people like myself whose professional careers have been influenced by the electroweak and similar theories (known as "gauge theories") have a rudimentary knowledge of their historical development. However, I was hoping that this book would be more focused on physics in its own right, and much less concerned with history. I've read several other books by Frank Close ("Nothing: A very Short introduction," "Neutrino") and from reading those I've come impressed by Close's ability to present complex physical ideas in an accessible and highly informative manner. "The Infinity Puzzle" turns out to be a very different kind of book. Aside from being overly historical, it also spends too much time on "inside baseball" minutia and arcana that even those who are inside baseball will probably just skip over. I am really not interested in getting the information straight on who presented which scientific talk in what form back in the early 1970s, and I can't imagine that most readers of this book would care much about this either. This is a very interesting and accessible book, but I am afraid that the choice of topics might be too recondite for the kind of audience that this book is aimed at.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most balanced and thorough history of this field I have come across so far, 1 July 2012
By 
David E. Perkins (East Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am just starting to reread this (having only just finished it!) before I move on to another book, because there is so much in it that I won't remember much otherwise. Meticulously researched, obviously meaning to get as near the truth of the history of this particular field of research as possible.

If you are MUCH more interested in the science itself than the history, you may not find this an ideal read, and may get bogged down. Having said that, it does explain quite a lot behind the relevant investigations, in a very clear way which makes plain what the issues were (and are) all about, why they matter, and how they were addressed. The notes contain a lot of more detailed technical information on some aspects. A bit of speed/skim-reading for some sections would come in useful I think (what I am trying second time round), because the book really does merit a go. The index seems very thorough for referring back, but the bibliography was simply a short list of titles with no description of their content, or value (in the suthor's opinion) - one area where it could have been much more helpful.

Although the book is extremely detailed it is not repetitive, but does really try to light up the scientific process, warts and all. Unlike another recent (though good) book I have read which did seem to pad things out unnecessarily, this presents a nicely rounded and thorough review covering many different aspects of the ~90 year saga.

As has been said, Frank Close doesn't put himself centre-stage, though he is a prominent researcher who has had a lot of personal contact with many of the protagonists.

Interesting for me also was that in a recent review, I speculated on whether someone might write a history in a single pass, rather than describing individual threads in time through to the current state, and repeatedly jumping back in time to trace other threads in the story. I also wondered if it would work. Well the author has done just that and in my view, extremely successfully. There are 1-page 'intermissions' which summarise the state of play eg 'we've reached 1950', and 'early 1970s'. He only goes back in time occasionally for a bit of background where there is a related theme, such as a much older study/theorem which is relevant to a current part of the story. This approach made it much easier to follow for me.

Frank Close is an extremely clear, interesting and easy writer and IMHO this book is worthy of his efforts and our time!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly well researched account of the history of field theories in particle physics, 4 Jan 2013
I have read a number of books on the history of particle physics discoveries which have all tended to focus on the particles themselves. This is the first I have read giving a detailed account of the development of the QED and QCD theories that enable properties to be calculated and new particles predicted. Previous accounts tend to skip going into detail about these very complex matters. As a history of science it is unbelievably well-researched - in fact from the history point of view this is almost more of an academic publication worthy of a Nobel prize in its own right! The author has the benefit of being an expert in the field and personally knowing many of the theoreticians involved. He has many personal anecdotes which bring the text to life. The topics of Yang-Mills theories, gauge invariance, renormalisation, broken symmetries and bosons(Goldstone or otherwise) feature fairly continuously and (to me) rather bewilderingly. I do have one criticism in that I wish the author had made more of an effort to give some physically intuitive way of understanding these ideas to a layman such as myself. Of course this may not be possible as quantum theory is notoriously a matter of mathematics rather than understanding. I didn't find any attempt to explain what a Yang-Mills theory was in essence or even what it implied (possibly I was asleep at the time) I would have liked a better focussed explanation about the reality of both the Higgs field and symmetry breaking in relation to bosons (weak interaction) and fermions (electron) rather than the odd partial explanations which continue into the last chapter. The best intuitive explanation in this book for me was the analogy of electromagnetic radiation interacting with plasma. In this respect Sean Carrolls 'Particle at the end of the universe' is a better read although still wanting in some respects. Despite this criticism this is a great book and I have no hesitation in awarding it five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Covers what it says in the tiitle, 27 Dec 2012
By 
T. L. Knight "Camel" (Guildford, UK) - See all my reviews
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The book goes into huge detail of the activities of the theoretical physicists from the 1950's to the present time. I am sure it is meticulously researched but leads to rather tedious reading for anyone only moderately interested in the politics behind the developments. I feel the author may have some bias against Abdus Salem, the only one of the protagonists I have heard speak.

I had bought the book hoping to learn more about the subject of renormalization but found it little help in this respect. I am sure that anyone buying the book would have some knowledge of theoretical physics and so would be able to benefit from a rather more technical coverage than that provided which assumes that the reader has practically no knowledge of the subject. Still, the book did not claim to provide this so perhaps I should not complain.

For anyone wanting a comprehensive history of this area of theoretical physics this book provides an indispensable reference. Anyone wanting to learn more about the physics itself will need to look elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, like a detective story, 4 Nov 2012
By 
Paul P. Mealing (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This is very well written - it has a strong narrative drive for something in this genre. Not only does Close give an insight into the physics of QED, QFD and QCD as well as the personalities involved, he exposes the politics behind Nobel prizes. In particular, Close goes to a lot of trouble to give credit to those whose contributions have not been given the acknowledgement they probably deserve. It reads like a detective story, not only regarding uncovering the mysteries of particle physics but also who made the discoveries, and how individual personalities contributed to theories that were sometimes ridiculed and later vindicated. Close also provides rationalisation behind the most expensive scientific experiments performed on Earth: to unlock the secret of our very existence. Close is not only a particle physicist himself, but interviewed a number of the people involved and researched those he couldn't interview.

Elvene
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on the real world of science, 10 Feb 2012
By 
Robert (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Great book on the development of the Standard Model over the period 1960 to 2000. It provided a fantastic helicopter view of these developments. I was "on the ground" doing my PhD and lacked this overview and was immersed in specifics and details, and also observed the politics but didn't really understand at the time (1971-74 was my period). So many thanks to Frank Close for a really good exposition.
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