The first insider account of the work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the discovery of the Higgs particle - and what it all means for our understanding of the laws of nature.
The discovery of the Higgs boson made headlines around the world. Two scientists, Peter Higgs and François Englert, whose theories predicted its existence, shared a Nobel Prize. The discovery was the culmination of the largest experiment ever run, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
But what really is a Higgs boson and what does it do? How was it found? And how has its discovery changed our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature? And what did it feel like to be part of it?
Jon Butterworth is one of the leading physicists at CERN and this book is the first popular inside account of the hunt for the Higgs. It is a story of incredible scientific collaboration, inspiring technological innovation and ground-breaking science. It is also the story of what happens when the world's most expensive experiment blows up, of neutrinos that may or may not travel faster than light, and the reality of life in an underground bunker in Switzerland.
This book will also leave you with a working knowledge of the new physics and what the discovery of the Higgs particle means for how we define the laws of nature. It will take you to the cutting edge of modern scientific thinking.
Jon Butterworth is one of the leading physicists on the Large Hadron Collider and is Head of Physics and Astronomy at UCL. He writes the popular Life & Physics blog for the Guardian and has written articles for a range of publications including the Guardian and New Scientist.
Jon has appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Material World, The Infinite Money Cage, BBC Newsnight, Horizon, Channel 4 News, and Al Jazeera. He frequently gives public lectures including at the Welcome Institute and the Royal Institution.
©2014 Jon Butterworth (P)2014 Audible Studios
Audio Addict! Usually listening to History these days. Love Will Durant most of all authors!
I have been very interested in the Geneva LHC project. I watched a recent documentary by Jason Greenburg (I think that's his name. He's a big "super symmetry" advocator.) Unfortunately, the documentary was not focused and left me without a clue! So I've been searching books to better understand the goal and outcomes of what is possibly the biggest experiment human beings have ever conducted. I'm not from a science background, but I try to stay familiar with current science news and ideas.
In Smashing Physics, Jon Butterworth provides an excellent overview of the issues and science behind the LHC, and the search for the Higg's Boson. This guy is uncommonly talented at making complex ideas accessible to an interested lay audience!!
I was engaged and entertained throughout the book by the author and the narrator.
This is the best of the new books explaining the work done in Geneva. (At least the ones available on audio.)
Highly recommended! Narrator does an amazing job of bringing the work to life, and yet sounds like he is a serious physics guy. The accent maybe?
I will definitely look for more books by the author in the future!
It was a little over my head, but that's what I was hoping for. The author get very detailed about his work without getting to complicated all at once. He tells you a bit, then tells a story about something giving you time to let it sink in, then explains a bit more. All without knowing that's what he is doing until the end, if you notice at all.
The narrator was fantastic. Very well done. I could have been sitting next to the author over tea and just been listening to a story.
I greatly enjoyed the inside story at CERN, and getting to understand how the process of "proving" the Higgs is the Higgs.
I did not understand all the physics, but I really enjoyed listening to the book. The book actually made me laugh out loud at times. And it effectively describes what it's like to be an actual physicists in today's world.
The physics is hard to understand, but the life of a physicist is easy to understand and very interesting.
Wonderful narrator. I will look for more of his work. Good story but very, very complex subject that the author does not simplify. However, it may not be able to bring this down to the level of a non-scientist.
At it's best, there is a narrator with a pleasant accent and a coherent narrative to share. But the descriptions of the physics left me wanting, as did the explanations of the scientific method. It's not particularly thrilling to hear for the umpteenth time that we can't see the things we're looking at, but instead must infer them from a bump on a graph. In fact, the book led me to question the point of the endeavor - which is the one area where it really needs to succeed to be of general interest to non-physicists.
At its worst, the book felt like a scramble to capitalize on being at the right place in the right time. Its concept, which is ostensibly to provide a window into the exciting lives of the world's top physicists left me cold, as did the (feigned?) humility, which felt forced and inauthentic. The more strident the author's attempts to dispel the idea that he wasn't part of a good-old-boys network of academic elites, the less I was convinced.
For a more cogent description of the science itself, I highly recommend "The Higgs Boson and Beyond" by Sean Carroll (and also available from Audible). That course is shorter and far more interesting, without nearly as much ego or narcissism to get in the way.
Well done indeed. The work at CERN is presented in a very approachable and engaging way, with a few laughs into the bargain. Highly enjoyable.
Professional nuclear physicists or those familiar with modern subatomic particle physics.
Too technical. Filled with highly technical jargon and terms. I am a chemist by training and interested in physics. I tried to follow the best I could, but in the end, had to give up.
Only if directed at a less technical audience.
Disappointment. I really wanted to learn about modern theories of particle physics but this was way over my head.
Meant only for those highly versed in modern particle physics.
Very good book. For someone like me, who is only an amateur physicist it was excelente. For a real physicist or a student it must be more so .
Butterworth doesn't cater to the novice. He gets right into the details, but mixes it up with his travel experiences to keep the reader's head from exploding. Don't bother if you do not have a basic knowledge of particle physics. It's a book about the current events at LHC and will be consigned to the dustpan of history in a year or two. The author, I feel, thought this also, which is why it seems so hastily written. No Pulitzer Prize here.
I'm still waiting for the book on the engineering and technology that went into building the incredible LHC. This is a very focused writing on the search for the Higgs from a theoretician's viewpoint. There is also a lot of repetition.
I still can't get over how the Brits say naught point one, instead of zero point one. I had me confused for a few sub-chapters.
If you have a knowledge of particle physics, you can lean some things. If not, you will never stand to finish this one.
Good read lots of insight into a major research endeavour. Will make anyone smarter in the area of sub atomic physics.
This is well narrated, although distinctly "by 'eck" at times meaning Jonathan Keeble makes Jon Butterworth sound distinctly more Yorkshire than he is in reality! But he draws you in and it's well paced.
This book feels like it has something of an identify crisis because it does not comfortably mix the technical side of physics with social / people side of CERN. It's too technical for too long in periods for me to remain engaged and the social / people side is too weak to be compelling. That's not to say it is without merit but it has fallen short vs my expectations. I think this could be a must-read for a physics under-graduate or the like, but for the ordinary many on the street like me, I would not recommend it.
"Well read and informative."
This was a great addition to my physics collection. It doesn't really go into complex-hard to listen to explanations. It's well written, well read and funny. I recommend this to anyone who is at least remotely interested in physics.
"Physics for the layman and a great story"
This book chronicles the professional experiences of one of the higher ups in britains involvement with the LHC as well as several other physics experiments. The book is well written and generates real excitement even when you know the outcome, as well as providing a sound basis of knowledge of quantum mechanics and relativity (for the level of an interested outsider, at least) without being bogged down in technical detail. The workings of the LHC and indeed all particle smashers are explained very clearly. A really excellent read.
"Excellent tour of the world of particle physics"
Butterworth makes the impossibly complex theories of particle physics easy to understand. Better still, he encases these theories in the realities of science politics and personalities. Despite the complexity of the subject matter, I could not stop listening.
"Loved it but hardly understood it!"
I really enjoyed this book and had to appreciate it at a fairly superficial level because some of the concepts are very difficult for a non particle physicist to understand. I like to think that I'm no mathematical or scientific slouch but I found much of the content too tough.
But that just means you have to appreciate it on a different level.
Well worth a listen.
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