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Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for the skeptical, 4 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Kindle Edition)
This book assumes that the reader is happy to take all its statements on trust, with no requirement for evidence or convincing arguments. It piles up scores of claims about particles and forces without giving solid evidence to support those claims.

True, there are chapters that describe some experiments and apparatus, but these never quite constitute justification. They are just fragments of justifications.

Since the gap between events and our senses is very large in particle physics (I.e. most things are calculated rather than literally 'seen') particle physicists have a very good reason for being especially careful to distinguish between what is fact and what is theory. In this book I was not convinced that any attempt was made to make such distinctions.

Rarely are claims linked to a named theory. Instead they are just stated as if facts.

Obvious questions a skeptical but reasonable reader might have are ignored. For example, several statements about the behaviour of neutrinos are given but we are told that neutrinos are incredibly difficult to detect. Isn't that a bit odd? How is it that so much is supposedly known about neutrinos when it is so hard even to know that they exist?

At one point we are told that neutrons and protons have much more mass than the sum of the particles thought to make them. This rather major problem with the theorising is pointed out, which is good, but brushed aside with the statement that the difference cannot at this time 'be derived from theory'.

So, read this book if you want to be bombarded with the names and properties of particles that nameless people believe exist on the basis of unspecified evidence. Don't buy it if you want to be convinced by real science.

Sorry if that seems harsh, but I do feel underestimated by the author, and that he has tried to blind me with fancy sounding science.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Jan 2014 15:13:22 GMT
Ghostgrey51 says:
Thank you for a very cohesive and incisive review which highlights a shortcoming that is quite important, even to a VSI book

Posted on 31 Mar 2015 10:05:15 BDT
Miketang says:
Theoretical hypotheses often precede experimental verification in physics; the wonder is that so much of the standard model was backed up. Even then it's usually a matter of "detecting" particles by indirect effects on other entities. Thus the hypothesis of proton decay was postulated back in the 1970s but the technological difficulties of detecting it are formidable in the current state of human knowledge. So, no it isn't odd that neutrinos are difficult to detect, if by that you mean experimentally. As this is an account for the layman without mathematics, it is impossible to be more precise. But surely it is better to put forward some account than to leave developments in physics a closed book to all but specialists.
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