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Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos | [The Great Courses]

Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos

Would you like to know how the universe works? Scientists have been asking that question for a long time and have found that many of the answers can be found in the study of particle physics, the field that focuses on those impossibly tiny particles with unbelievably strange names - the hadrons and leptons, baryons and mesons, muons and gluons - so mystifying to the rest of us.
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Publisher's Summary

Would you like to know how the universe works? Scientists have been asking that question for a long time and have found that many of the answers can be found in the study of particle physics, the field that focuses on those impossibly tiny particles with unbelievably strange names - the hadrons and leptons, baryons and mesons, muons and gluons - so mystifying to the rest of us.

And now, in a fascinating and accessible series of 24 lectures, you can take the mystery out of the remarkable field that in only 100 years has unlocked the secrets of the basic forces of nature.

Professor Pollock will make you familiar with the fundamental particles that make up all matter, from the tiniest microbe to the sun and stars. And you'll also learn the "rules of the game" - the forces that drive those particles and the ways in which they interact - that underlie the workings of the universe.

The lectures have been designed to be enriching for everyone, regardless of scientific background or mathematical ability. Virtually all you'll need as you enter this fascinating world are your curiosity, common sense, and, as Professor Pollock notes, "an open mind for the occasional quantum weirdness." As you move through the lectures, you'll also gain a knowledge of how those particles fit into perhaps the greatest scientific theory of all time: the Standard Model of particle physics; a grasp of key terms like "gauge symmetry," "quantum chromodynamics," and "unified quantum field Theory;" and an appreciation of how particle physics fits in with other branches of physics - including cosmology and quantum mechanics - to create our overall understanding of nature.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Greg Aldrich Las Vegas, NV USA 01-07-15
    Greg Aldrich Las Vegas, NV USA 01-07-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Fantastic but Dated"
    Would you listen to Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos again? Why?

    This is a wonderful lesson to the time it was recorded. At this point, eight or more years have passed and you need to listen to more recent works to get the updates since Professor Pollock narrated this. It is still a fantastic way to get from the beginning of particle physics to the time he gave this lecture. I found it extremely accessible and will likely listen through it again. Professor Pollock has inspired me to recent works such as "The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter" by Katherine Freese. I can't comment on that yet.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos?

    Sorry, this isn't me. I liked the whole program.


    What about Professor Steven Pollock’s performance did you like?

    I could sense his passion. This is what Professor Pollock does. I'd rather learn from a practitioner than a bystander. He uses "we" often. You can feel it, or at least I could. I would love to have been in his lectures and chatted afterwards.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No, it gave me information I was interested in. I am not a Particle Physics student. I am a lifelong learner with a bent towards science. I really enjoyed his presentation of a fairly complex subject. If you are reading this, you likely are looking for what I was, so listen to the lecture.


    Any additional comments?

    Understand that he will talk about what's to come several years past. Plan for it and it is fine. Don't be frustrated that he talks about something coming in 2007. Just get an updated text to follow this. It is still a great history to the time it was recorded and well worth the investment in time (certainly more valuable than whatever you pay for the lectures).

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-19-15
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-19-15 Member Since 2015

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Demystifies particles"

    The choice is yours. You can let the popular media and the Mystics continue to tell you that particles physics is woo and mysticism or you can listen to this highly accessible lecture and realize what particle physics is all about and learn why neutrinos are so important, what c-p violation means, and what makes up the universe at the most fundamental level.

    The lecturer doesn't tell you anything without first telling you the context and how we know what we know. I still don't understand what a photon really is or what exactly is meant by spin, but that's not the fault of the lecture. It's more that their real meaning is tied up with esoteric mathematics and the lecture stays away from the math.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A reader of fact and fiction 04-10-14
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    "Excellent introduction for a non-physicists"

    I would recommend this to anybody who is interested in fundamental parts of our universe. Very clear presentation, easy to follow, and seems at least to me to cover the subject very well.

    I have no interest to dwell into the mathematics of particle physics, and the aim of the series of lectures is indeed to deliver as comprehensive overview of particle physics to a listener just like me.

    Very clear presentation, and I would like to listen to more material of this subject produced with such clarity and attention to delivery. Excellent!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Briggs Johnson 04-11-14
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    "Fundamental understanding of fundamental stuff."
    What made the experience of listening to Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos the most enjoyable?

    The narrator is very forgiving, and understands the listener is there to learn. Walk in with a cursory understanding of "things are made of other things", and walk out tossing around terms you now understand like "Fermion" and "Neutrino".


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I feel nothing really could have been done to improve the listening, aside from including PDF's with things you'll only understand after, to give the listener a sense of advancement.


    What does Professor Steven Pollock bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His tone, as mentioned, is forgiving. He keeps the atmosphere light hearted and energetic, and you never feel like you're being spoken down to.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book has no narrative, so the question more apt would be "did it make me contemplate how I exist?"

    Yes. Knowing that even smaller than the atom, even smaller than the proton, exists a level of matter so abstract that it is unseeable directly is a world changer. You will contemplate many thing you thought you knew.


    Any additional comments?

    If you need your understanding of particle physics to become greater than the base level you'll get in popular media like Cosmos and Bill Nye (which are fantastic places to start), this will explain in familiar terms to everyone where to guide your education on the next step.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Strength&Speed 06-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Boring, slow"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This is for the bare beginner. if you know anything about science or particle physics and even the most basic sense the first six to seven half hour lectures are basically a waste of your time.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    not sure I'm going to go for history next. I would recommend anything by deGrasse Tyson or another physicist


    How could the performance have been better?

    the author had many long pauses. I put the replay on 2 times and even three times speed. his analogies I felt were repetitive and not particularly good. I got the fact that atoms can be visualized as billiard balls. You don't need to explain billiard balls to me. a lot of it just seems very self explanatory, not even the science part but just the tedious explanations of what is common sense.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos?

    I think he should assume that the readers are fairly intelligent and don't need really basic things explained to them. If you use an analogy then let it ride don't also explain the analogy. He needs to trust the intelligence of his audience.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Omar Shippensburg, PA, United States 04-26-15
    Omar Shippensburg, PA, United States 04-26-15
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    "Great course great narrator."

    This audiobook is very enjoyable yet informative. To be honest it's a book I'll probably have to listen to again just to try and understand and remember everything (not that it isn't presented in a good way). It uses little to no mathematics. Exactly what I suspected from it and more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Federico Medina 04-18-15 Member Since 2012
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    "One of the best tours I've ever taken"

    I grabbed this audiobook without knowing what to expect. I've now listen to it for the 3rd time.

    It is without a doubt one of the best audiobooks I've listen to. The narrator is an excellent storyteller, the concepts presented are precise, indepth and easy for a non-physicist (like myself) to grasp.

    On a side note, one thing that really helped me remember all the concepts presented here was a visual table of the fundamental particles.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tom 03-29-14
    Tom 03-29-14
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    "A book without pages is easier to read."
    If you could sum up Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, captivating, and informative. Thank you.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the fact it was audible and easy to turn on my laptop and plug in my ear-buds. I just listened and became informed about a subject of which I am interested.


    What about Professor Steven Pollock’s performance did you like?

    Steven Pollock seems to be very knowledgeable about the subject, "not to be sarcastic", but it was assuring to hear him talk about this subject. It did not seem like I was listening to a scripted reading.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened in 5 sittings.


    Any additional comments?

    Thank you. I am a scientific and mechanically inclined human being. This is the kind of information I like and use in life.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Palatine, IL, United States 02-16-14
    Daniel Palatine, IL, United States 02-16-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent"
    Any additional comments?

    Nothing more to say, if you want to know about particle physics, this will be an excellent place to start, or a wonderful refresher for those who have hear it all before. Well organized and well spoken. Absolutely wonderful for those long car rides.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Chicago, IL, United States 05-27-14
    Adam Chicago, IL, United States 05-27-14 Member Since 2015
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    "My favorite Great Courses Lecture"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos to be better than the print version?

    There is no print version.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It's a lecture. This question is weird. Steven Pollock?


    Have you listened to any of Professor Steven Pollock’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I've listened to his lecture on Classical Physics. This one is much better. I think this is his area of expertise, though. So that makes sense.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Intense interest and desire for more and more detail. This should have a second and third version.


    Any additional comments?

    I love Pollock's presentation style. I love that he carefully organized these lectures. And, I love that he helps me to feel like I have a thorough understanding of the work being done at large colliders (well, mostly just the LHC now).

    I've listened to this twice. I intend to listen a third time. It's absolutely fascinating. I loved learning about Quantum Chromodynamics and Quantum Electrodynamics.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
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  • D. J. Morris
    Manchester, UK
    6/8/15
    Overall
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    "Perfectly pitched"

    Very well presented, enthusiastic introduction to particle physics, very much looking forward to extending my understanding since the Higgs was (with high probability) discovered in 2013. Prof Pollock's delivery is hugely engaging, and he never assumes any knowledge beyond a general appreciation of the scientific method. Would have liked some links to reference material, but Wikipedia sufficed to give a visual representation of the Standard Model as Prof Pollock built up the picture. Absolutely recommended to anyone with an enquiring mind, and with some 30 min slots in their day which can be dedicated to listening!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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