The Particle At The End of The Universe – Sean Carroll

 

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I decided to read this book because it won the Royal Society prize for science books a number of years ago. I usually attempt to give either the winner or shortlisted books on the list a go. All the books from the prize in the past have been excellent reads, so I was very excited to tackle this book. The book explains the hunt for the Higgs particle and how it was studied and discovered.

The beginning of the book is absolutely excellent. It gives a defence of why particle physics is important and fascinating and really gives the reader an almost child-like excitement about studying particle physics. Sean Carroll does a great job of simply explaining what particle physics is and how the various particles are the building blocks of the world and universe we see around us.

However what follows in the preceding chapters is so incredibly challenging at points that the book at times was no longer enjoyable. However before I continue, I must note that I have no physics background at all. The most I studied in physics was the basic atom diagram we learnt when I was roughly 14! So very quickly the book became extremely in depth about the many various particles and their makeup and symmetry etc. The author does occasionally try to explain some difficult sections with easy to understand examples, but they were far too rare for a reader with my limited knowledge! For instance, rather embarrassingly if someone was to ask me to explain exactly the science behind the Higgs boson, I would still struggle to give them an answer. However if you have done physics, you may find his explanations perfectly understandable.

However the novel does an excellent job in explaining the narrative of the LHC and the CERN project. It is truly an amazing story of how they overcame huge obstacles. It required huge cross-country support and funding, and it is a real success story of what can be achieved in the scientific world. I also really enjoyed the chapters towards the end of the book which predicted some of physics other huge unsolved puzzles, and how they could be linked to this historical finding.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone who has a prior grasp or understanding on particle physics. I found the book extremely challenging because I lacked this understanding. However for people at my level of physics knowledge, there is still an incredible tale of scientific curiosity and collaboration which will interest anyone.

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