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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