Letting the rest of the world go by
This was not an easy book to understand and the particle zoo plays a large role in the discussion and often I would lose my way only because the material is sometimes hard to follow, but the book covers everything you always wanted to know about the Higgs Boson and its field, but were afraid to ask.
I absolutely loved the author's previous book, "From Eternity to Here", and couldn't wait for this book. He's such a good writer and explains better than almost anyone. There are enough good parts in this book to make the particle zoo part worth listening to.
There's one important theme that runs through the book that will make the book easier to understand. That is these five words: "not observed waves, observed particles". In the background of the universe is the Higgs field and it is the vibration of this field that gives particles their mass. The author explains this and relates it to possible solutions to dark matter and dark energy.
All of the cool parts of all the sciences (and social sciences) are covered in this lecture. The lecture is somewhat equivalent to taking the first year undergraduate course of study where you didn't have to worry about memorizing irrelevant facts or learn the mathematics. He tells you what you need to know about physics, geology, economics, sociology, psychology, and even why deductive systems such as mathematics with it's different orders of infinity is so cool and relevant to understanding the nature of reality.
The lecturer ties each lecture together by linking the growth of each subject by how we first understand the individual item (say a rock), then the relationship between the rocks (say gravity) and then the web for which the rocks live in (say the universe).
The paradigms we use to describe our reality are part of the current understanding and when somebody steps out of that paradigm and sees the world differently we first say they are spouting nonsense, but overtime the new paradigm can take hold. Newton was called crazy (action at a distance, what an absurd concept!), Einstein was challenged until he wasn't then he never accepts the quantum mechanics, and so on.
Always, the lecture educates and entertains. He will tie difficult points to a movie, a book, or a painting and show how it is relevant to the point he is making. "Frankenstein" the book finally makes sense to me.
The author writes in a straightforward manner and explains the science in a highly entertaining manner. If I ever sit next to somebody in a waffle house who starts talking about his life stories, I can easily pivot into one of the five stories splendidly presented in this book. The writer was that good at telling the stories about the blunders, and having listened to it I can probably relate the whole book and it's major points without missing a beat. That tells me the book was well presented.
The narrator made the book better than the written book. I found some of his voices a real hoot, particularly Darwin and Einstein. I would definitely recommend the audible version versus the written form of this book.
For me, this book was a template for having worked in the real world surrounded around very smart people who would fall into the blunders that are illustrated by these five stories. I don't think the author realized how relevant the stories could be for most working stiffs and the kind of people we often have to work with.
Instead of picking Einstein's blunder as the cosmological constant, he should have picked Einstein's failure to accept quantum mechanics after having co-discovered it and wasting his time on the GUT (grand unified theorem) outside of the context of quantum physics. I know why he picked the cosmological constant. It's a funner story to relate and is more relevant today because of the mystery of Dark Energy, and the word blunder is not usually associated with that for Einstein and the cosmological constant is.
Overall, the stories are well presented, and it was narrated much better than it was written, but the author missed a great opportunity to make a better book about the foibles of life in general.