The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest, and by far the most powerful, machine ever built. A project of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, its audacious purpose is to re-create, in a 16.5-mile-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss countryside, the immensely hot and dense conditions that existed some 13.7 billion years ago within the first trillionth of a second after the fiery birth of our universe.
The collider is now crashing protons at record energy levels never created by scientists before, and it will reach even higher levels by 2013. Its superconducting magnets guide two beams of protons in opposite directions around the track. After accelerating the beams to 99.9999991 percent of the speed of light, it collides the protons head-on, annihilating them in a flash of energy sufficient to coalesce into a shower of particles and phenomena that have not existed since the first moments of creation. Within the LHC’s detectors, scientists hope to see empirical confirmation of key theories in physics and cosmology.
In telling the story of what is perhaps the most anticipated experiment in the history of science, Amir D. Aczel takes us inside the control rooms at CERN at key moments when an international team of top researchers begins to discover whether this multibillion-euro investment will fulfill its spectacular promise. Through the eyes and words of the men and women who conceived and built CERN and the LHC, Aczel enriches all of us with a firm grounding in the scientific concepts we will need to appreciate the discoveries that will almost certainly spring forth when the full power of this great machine is finally unleashed.
With Present at the Creation, we can all follow the progress of an experiment that promises to greatly satisfy the curiosity of anyone who ever concurred with Einstein when he said, “I want to know God’s thoughts - the rest is details.”
©2010 Amir D. Aczel (P)2010 Random House Audio
"A fascinating discussion of research at the cutting-edge of physics." (Arthur I. Miller, author of Deciphering the Cosmic Number)
Present at the creation is a highly accessible introduction to particle physics, quantum mechanics and the history of CERN. Very enjoyable, with enough physics background to explain latest research without getting lost in technical detail.
This information in this book includes an overview of modern physics, the history of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider, and specifics of some of the physics problems being studied at CERN. It reads like a compilation of essays written for different publications, so there is some repetition. Some essays are harder to follow and more information-dense than others. All of them are well written.
I'm a lay person, and this is the first book I've read on some of the concepts of modern physics. I learned a lot. But the narrator, Byron Wagner, read too fast for me to follow the more technical chapters.
"Excellent book, ruined by the narrator"
I chose this book to read before I went on a once in a lifetime's trip to visit the LHC last year and started listening to it eagerly. Unfortunately I immediately found the voice and accent of the narrator grated on me and left it for later. In the last week I really wanted to give the book another try since it seemed to have a lot to offer and I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to get to grips with it. I've had to admit defeat this morning and I won't be listening to it again.
The subject matter is fascinating and although there are some odd places where things are suddenly glossed over for no apparent reason the writing is detailed while being easy to understand. I am sure that it is well researched and the descriptions of the places and people are engaging and interesting.
Unfortunately the strong, almost overpowering accent of the narrator is intrusive and unpleasant to listen to, and his inability to pronounce quite a few important technical words correctly is irritiating to the point of distraction. Added to this is the tone with which he reads - it is as if he is constantly surprised by what he is reading, with a note of amazement in his voice about things which are not even slightly surprising, something which detracts from the listener's ability to grasp the sometimes complex concepts that he is reading about. He also has a tone which at times becomes rather patronising, almost like a television programme for very small children, and again this is so overpowering that it detracts from the clarity of the text.
If the book had been read by somebody who gave the impression of understanding the subject, with a grasp of correct pronounciation and with a less overpowering accent it would probably have been a really excellent listen, but I am afraid that I am unlikely ever to finish it in this form. A great shame.
"Excellent book on science"
This is one of the most accessible books I've encountered in explaining the complex theories that underly quantum physics.
The history of CERN is a theme that runs throughout the book, as the author covers the advances and leaves this listener feeling like I understand the complexities at least at a basic level.
I found this very engaging and engrossing and I can return to the book repeatedly and each time learn some nothing new.
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