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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Particle at the End of the Unvirse - Sean Carroll #Review




One of a few books I bitterly felt that I should have read in earlier times. The Higgsteria,the discovery of Higgs goes back to July 2012 and this book is all about the endeavour for the discovery of the same. The author lucidly counts the steps, both mechanical and humane, in the establishment of the LHC. No mention about the Cyclotron, there is a beginning account of Linear Accelerators from the USA to the present CMS or ATLAS at the LHC (at 456F, the largest refrigerator in the world, he calls) is beautifully brought about with ample examples and reasons. If all the data generated by the LHC were to be stored on CDs, it would fill more than a million discs every second. Avoiding this using Trigger is a worthy devouring mention. With Nobel going for this discovery essentially not centred over the idea from where it started, the author mentions the excitement associated with this along with lasting contribution of the same in the most accessible way for every reader.

The mass of everything hereabouts is dominantly due to the nuclei of atoms, the source of which is the kinetic energy of quarks trapped within protons and neutrons. This has nothing to do with the Higgs. The Higgs is (or was) believed to give mass to fundamental particles: the size of a hydrogen atom is inversely proportional to the mass of the electron, as Carroll writes; the compactness of the nuclei of heavy atoms is due to the mass of their constituent quarks. The force that converts protons into the seeds of helium in the solar furnace, and leads to sunshine, is weak in part because its carrier - the W boson - is massive. This is critical for our existence, for had the W remained massless, like a photon, the force would have been more powerful and the Sun burned out long ago!

On the whole, Carroll's descriptions of the Physics are excellent. He engages in lots of metaphors from everyday experiences to give some concreteness to the very abstract notions. Here are some bullets that attracted my attention:

#The behaviour of inverted pendulum gives a good, intuitive approach to the level of energy of a Higgs boson.

#That Angelina Jolie walking across a party room full of people will be slowed down by fans wanting an autograph. She "breaks the symmetry" because if Carroll were to walk across the same room, he would not be approached and would cross the room unhindered. This is equated with Higgs Boson, which is capable of breaking symmetry.

        # That dropping Mentos into bottles of Diet Coke will have the same result when you are sitting still, as when you are in a train going 100 miles per hour.

# At COBE, if you are religious you are looking at God!

# Without Higgs many elementary particles would appear identical to one another

# Bosons don't take up space - 2 or 2 Trillion can sit exactly in the same location

# The Magnets of ATLAS have 1 billion Joules of energy in them.

# A single collision event at LHC results in 1 MB of data

# Why life is so big? Because we are trying to look at things that happened within very short distances which means we need to use small wavelength which means we need high energy particles - that's why LHC is there

# Plasma state has mass lower than that of temperature!

# WIMP's in billions pass through your body

There are several remarks after the appendices that could have been elevated to the main text as they carry vital information, but
then it seems the book was written as a guide to the "LHC setup", and for everyone who is not aware of Physics and the particles.

Charming book, indeed




Friday, January 6, 2017

How to teach Physics to your dog - Chad Orzel #Review




After reading his book "How to teach relativity to dog', which turned out to be a thriller of sorts, I was tempted towards this book. The style and manner are similar in both the books, but here in '...physics', there is more fundamental approach to the subject, that would, therefore be very useful for beginners. Nevertheless, the author takes us through his quirky dialogues allowing microscopic properties to be copied to macroscopic ones - the dog chasing the bunny

There is excellent description about the waves, diffraction and their bending. apart from Bell’s Theorem and g-factor. Planck's length is beautifully explained. The pronunciation of de-Broglie’s, who's wavelength was what we were hammering our heads against in our PG days, was a good toner here - de Broy!

Zeno's paradox was a new one to me. Zeno's arguments are perhaps the first examples of a method of proof called reductio ad absurdum also known as proof by contradiction. They are also credited as a source of the dialectic method used by Socrates. That said, the example of Tortoise and Achilles (In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. – as recounted by Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b15) is brought out beautifully. There is hence a mathematical sequence to this and the resulting sequence is represented as:
{......,1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1}

Wave function Collapse and Quantum Entanglement/tunneling are given a big share in the book, though beautifully explained, these did not make interesting reading as I was aware of these two effects from previous reads. Quantum Healing is also being 'sniffed' upon by the dog and a meek reference to Deepak Chopra's book on the topic is enlightening.

“Physical body is like an illusion and trying to manipulate it is like grasping the shadow and missing the substance.” This is what the author has to say about the world which is a reflection of sensory apparatus that registers it.

Homeopathic Treatment finds a strange mention in this book. The Milagro's reference to its healing simply sends a chill through the brain's cortex. When minute quantities of herbs or toxins are placed in water and diluted to a point where there should not be a single molecule of the original herb or toxin in a given water sample, the water gets 'disturbed'. The water tries to remember its 'past' in the presence of original substance, though and acquires some of its properties which supposedly enables the water to heal the patients who drink it. This memory effect of water is related to Quantum Entanglement.

The book is far less mathematical than any other similar book of this caliber and hence is much more enjoyable. If you don't mind a talking dog, and frequent references to bunnies, then this is an excellent introduction to quantum physics.

A confession by the dog:

The universe is making fun of me
So here's the problem:
Particles do not exist - fields do.
Fields do not exist - particles do.

This insight is not helping me. In fact, I find that it leaves me profoundly frustrated. Clearly, the universe is conspiring against me. It is thwarting all my efforts to grasp what is going on. My intuition is failing. The way I have thought about the world all my life is useless when trying to understand how the world works at a deeper level. I am in a quagmire, I am thrashing around, straining to grasp the branch of a tree in an attempt to steady myself, to lift myself onto solid ground.