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Smashing Physics: Inside the Discovery of the Higgs Boson Audio Download – Unabridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 19 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 22 July 2014
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00LV1H4X8
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank:

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jon Butterworth is a particle physicist, engaged in research at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, where two opposing streams of protons or neutrons are accelerated to close to the speed of light before being 'smashed' in collisions with each other, causing the breakdown into fundamental particles to be detected by extremely sensitive detectors.

This is, in places, a tough read because understanding particle physics does not come easily. Jon Butterworth makes a valiant effort to describe things that really only make sense mathematically where our intuitive view of events from the visible world we inhabit no longer holds. But, as he says, the book is not a physics textbook, nor is it a history of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, nor is it a personal diary of his time as a researcher at CERN, though it ranges over all these subjects.

If you stick with it, you do get an understanding of the achievement and the difficulties involved. The famous announcement of a 'faster-than-light neutrino' that ultimately turned out to be an instrument problem is used as an example of how science works.

There is also some insight into the life of a research scientist (including off-duty nights in Hamburg). And an impassioned plea for the continued government funding of pure science with no obvious commercial payback. Let us hope that this plea is heeded.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent years, the production of popular books about some of the most exciting fields of physics has become a cottage industry. This is particularly true of particle physics, with a new crop of books following the discovery of the Higgs boson. The latter often share much common ground, and this book is no exception, but the slant is new. It is a personal account of what it was like to be a member of one of the international collaborations that after years of dedicated work found experimental evidence for the particle, thereby validating a theoretical prediction that had been made by Higgs and others more than forty years earlier, and that was crucial to underpinning the current theory of particle physics, the prosaically named `standard model'.

The author was a member of the 3000-strong ATLAS collaboration at CERN, comprising staff from 38 different countries. Getting such a diverse group to work as a team to build the enormous ATLAS detector, and then analyse the resulting data, required not just scientific and engineering abilities of a high order, but also considerable management skills. The story of how this was successfully achieved is described in this book, and a fascinating story it is.

The book starts with that magic day in September 2008 when the LHC was first switch on and its colliding beams established, only to be followed nine days later by a catastrophic failure when several magnets were destroyed by an explosion. It took a year to make the repairs. The author then backtracks to describe the long and often tedious process of preparing and testing the computer programmes that would be needed to analyse the data when they did eventually appear some ten years later.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was, like many others, intrigued by the hunt for the Higgs boson. When I came across a review of this book in the press, I felt that it might cast some light upon the thrill of the hunt as seen from the perspective of a very active participant, Jon Butterworth. I wasn't disappointed! Smashing Physics is not a text book. It tells a story and, in the process, teaches the uninitiated (eg me) at least a few of the essential facts about the Standard Model of particle physics - and does so painlessly. It also provides a window into the way big science (and CERN is truly big science) works.
Jon Butterworth mentions a series of short videos, called Colliding Particles (at [...]). You don't have to buy the book to view them - but they are very worthwhile as an insight into the work of JB and colleagues in the field of particle physics.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book, plenty of humour, not at all 'worthy' and with a remarkable absence of self importance. Centred around the discovery of the Higgs boson (of course) it tells a wider story about the realities of 'big' science. It also tells an important story about journalists and scientists getting to know each other and, if not actually liking each other, at least understanding where they are coming from. This is important because leaving the general public ignorant about science is very dangerous for all of our futures. Scientists have to become engaged and are doing so, thanks to people like Jon Butterworth.

If I have any criticism it is that there is some repetition but some of the concepts are hard enough to make that helpful.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't enjoy reading this book very much. It's not a bad book but it doesn't really hit the nail on the head. The way the author writes is just too random. He will be describing something and then wander off in a totally different direction. I don't mind when an author writes about his own experiences but only when they are interesting and unfortunately they aren't always very fascinating in this book. He describes his travels and conferences and meetings, a lot of which is rather boring. It's another of those books where I got half way through and I'd had enough. The highlight of the book should have been the discovery of the Higgs' Boson. It describes how they were homing in to the Higgs and thought they had it to 2 sigma and then suddenly it's at 5 sigma and it's all done. There should have been crescendos of excitement when Peter Higgs actually arrived at CERN and Rolf-Dieter Heuer announced "I think we've got it". I'm sure it was exciting if you were there, but in this book it's all a bit of a damp squid.
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