A gripping account of how the scientists who study the hidden structure of matter are coming close to understanding the symmetry at the heart of reality and how the breaking of this symmetry allowed the universe we know to emerge.
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Physicists believe that in its very first instant the universe existed in a perfectly symmetrical state. However, the temperature quickly fell as the universe expanded and this perfect symmetry was lost. The Higgs Force was responsible for breaking much of this symmetry and, as a consequence, for allowing the emergence of the conditions that made life possible. The key to testing this theory is the Large Hadron Collider, which was switched on amidst a fanfare of publicity and sensational reports – extra dimensions and mini black holes were predicted, signalling our impending doom, but the LHC only broke records and its main purpose continues to be the search for the Higgs particle.
Higgs Force reveals how physicists have unlocked the secrets of matter to reach an extraordinary understanding of the Cosmos and produced an elegant solution that unifies this understanding into a single theory. The Higgs particle is the last missing piece, and confirmation of its existence will have profound implications for our understanding of our place in the universe.
The book is divided into three parts. The first three chapters provide the broad historical and philosophical context, while the next three describe, in turn, each of the forces that are important in particle physics. The final three chapters are about the modern synthesis of the particles and forces and the search for the last missing piece in the particle physics jigsaw. Throughout, Nicholas Mee tells the human story whilst remaining true to the science, a story about the great characters of science and their achievements. Higgs Force is in the best tradition of popular science – accessible and engaging whilst offering deep insights into particle physics.
Further information about the book is available at the author's website at:
List of Illustrations
1. Seeing the World through Kaleidoscope Eyes
2. Unity is Strength
3. The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of
5. We Are Stardust!
6. Zen and the Art of Quark Dynamics
7. The Mystery of the Secret Symmetry
8. The Grand Synthesis
9. The Ultimate Prize
Appendix: Landau and Higgs
Introduction » (PDF, 45 KB)
Extract from Chapter 1: Seeing the World through Kaleidoscope Eyes » (PDF, 114 KB)
Extract from Chapter 4: QED » (PDF, 104 KB)
Nicholas Mee received his PhD in theoretical particle physics from the University of Cambridge. He is the director of software company Virtual Image and the author of many maths and science multimedia CD-ROMs. He is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
"Higgs Force takes the reader on a fascinating intellectual journey: our endeavours to uncover and understand the laws governing the universe, with particular emphasis on the beautiful ideas arising from symmetry. This is a remarkable story, and it is told here with lucidity and verve. Theoretical Physics has never been short of singular characters, and some fascinating biographical accounts appear, along with vivid and entertaining historical and cultural references. For an interested general reader, this book will provide an excellent introduction to ideas which have transformed our lives and which lead on to truly front-line research. With data from the LHC just beginning to emerge, we may be tantalisingly close to finishing the latest chapter in the story, by finding the long-awaited Higgs particle, and in this sense the book could not be more timely."
Jonathan Evans, Dept of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge
"Higgs Force takes a new approach to contemporary physics, and makes notoriously difficult material accessible and approachable. The book is very readable and entertaining, and I will certainly recommend it to my first year undergraduates, to whom it will greatly appeal."
Tony Mann, President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics
"Nicholas Mee ... is uniquely qualified to explain the mysteries of the Higgs force. Dr Mee provides an accurate account of the Geneva experiments with the Large Hadron Collider, provides his readers with some insight into the character of eminent physicists, and furnishes a lucid account of current theories ... [he dispenses], as far as possible, with complex mathematics and makes excellent use of interesting diagrams. He also inserts some problems for readers that prompt engagement in the text ... a most suitable text for sixth formers and first year graduates."
George Care, in The Bookbag
"Imagine my excitement when a copy of Higgs Force landed on my mat with the satisfying whump that only a book can produce ... I loved the easy-going mathematical angle that the sciency bits come from, and the historical commentaries do a great job of breaking these up to allow time for the reader's intellectual digestive juices to do their work ... it'd be a great book for the interested but less mathematically confident reader, too."
T.K. Briggs, on blogstronomy.blogspot.com
"Nicholas Mee acts as the trigger as he selects the tales to tell of those whose work has helped reveal the structure of matter and the laws of nature, culminating in the present hunt for the Higgs particle. The result is an intellectual journey that ends at the LHC near Geneva but begins with the Big Bang 13.75 billion years ago ... This book is far broader and more accessible than its title may suggest."
Manjit Kumar, in Literary Review, Issue 396
"... Higgs Force, the book that seeks to explain how modern physicists understand the universe by exposing the complex secrets of matter ... You have to have a vested interest in the subject matter to be able to read Higgs Force, more than just a passing fancy."
Neil Buchanan, at www.starburstmagazine.com
"... provides a well-written and clearly explained overview of the way in which our understanding of the fundamental forces in nature has developed over the last two thousand years ... It might be particularly suitable as preliminary reading for those intending to study Physics at university."
"Physicists rarely become household names. Pretty much anyone watching television in Britain will have heard of Brian Cox who is credited with making physics sexy again. ... One day, though, Peter Higgs and his eponymous boson might outshine them all. ... In Higgs Force, Nicholas Mee, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society with a doctorate in theorical particle physics from Cambridge University, lays out why the Higgs matters, and what is being done to find it."
"Every so often, physics get sexy ... [Nicholas Mee's] first book aims to do for the Higgs boson what Stephen Hawking did for the black hole ... There's no shirking on detail ... it offers a humble insight into a discipline that few people understand, equipping the reader with enough insight to explain the 'God particle' to impress friends ... the book's gretest strength is in ... the vivid depictions of the story's characters ... Higgs Force is an accomplished and engaging read ... lively biographies keep the pages turning in a way most popular science books fail to do."
Dr Stu, in Guru Magazine, Issue 5