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|The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World
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Author: Sean Carroll
Scientists have just announced an historic discovery on a par with the splitting of the atom: the Higgs boson, the key to understanding why mass exists has been found. In The Particle at the End of the Universe, Caltech physicist and acclaimed writer Sean Carroll takes readers behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to meet the scientists and explain this landmark event.
The Higgs boson is the particle that more than six thousand scientists have been looking for using the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, which lies in a tunnel 17 miles in circumference, as deep as 575 feet beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It took ten years to build and this search has now cost over $9 billion and required the collaboration of engineers from more than one hundred countries.
What is so special about the Higgs boson? We didn’t really know for sure if anything at the subatomic level had any mass at all until we found it. The fact is, while we have now essentially solved the mass puzzle, there are things we didn’t predict and possibilities we haven’t yet dreamed. A doorway is opening into the mind boggling, somewhat frightening world of dark matter. We only discovered the electron just over a hundred years ago and considering where that took us—from nuclear energy to quantum computing--the inventions that will result from the Higgs discovery will be world-changing.
The Particle at the End of the Universe not only explains the importance of the Higgs boson but also the Large Hadron Collider project itself. Projects this big don’t happen without a certain amount of conniving, dealing, and occasional skullduggery— and Sean Carroll explores it all. This is an irresistible story (including characters now set to win the Nobel Prize among other glories) about the greatest scientific achievement of our time.
|The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition
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Author: Richard Rhodes
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the seminal and complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan.
Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly—or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity, there was a span of hardly more than twenty-five years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan Project, and then into the bomb, with frightening rapidity, while scientists known only to their peers—Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence, and von Neumann—stepped from their ivory towers into the limelight.
Richard Rhodes gives the definitive story of man’s most awesome discovery and invention. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a narrative tour de force and a document with literary power commensurate with its subject.
If the first 270 pages of this book had been published separately, they would have made up a lively, insightful, beautifully written history of theoretical physics and the men and women who plumbed the mysteries of the atom. Along with the following 600 pages, they become a sweeping epic, filled with terror and pity, of the ultimate scientific quest: the development of the ultimate weapon. Rhodes is a peerless explainer of difficult concepts; he is even better at chronicling the personalities who made the discoveries that led to the Bomb. Niels Bohr dominates the first half of the book as J. Robert Oppenheimer does the second; both men were gifted philosophers of science as well as brilliant physicists. The central irony of this book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, is that the greatest minds of the century contributed to the greatest destructive force in history.
|QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library)
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Author: Richard P. Feynman
Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's new introduction places both Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.
|The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
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Author: Brian Greene
The international bestseller that inspired a major Nova special and sparked a new understanding of the universe, now with a new preface and epilogue.Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away layers of mystery to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter—from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas—is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. The Elegant Universe makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.
There is an ill-concealed skeleton in the closet of physics: "As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right." Each is exceedingly accurate in its field: general relativity explains the behavior of the universe at large scales, while quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles. Yet the theories collide horribly under extreme conditions such as black holes or times close to the big bang. Brian Greene, a specialist in quantum field theory, believes that the two pillars of physics can be reconciled in superstring theory, a theory of everything.
Superstring theory has been called "a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century." In other words, it isn't all worked out yet. Despite the uncertainties--"string theorists work to find approximate solutions to approximate equations"--Greene gives a tour of string theory solid enough to satisfy the scientifically literate.
Though Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study is in many ways the human hero of The Elegant Universe, it is not a human-side-of-physics story. Greene's focus throughout is the science, and he gives the nonspecialist at least an illusion of understanding--or the sense of knowing what it is that you don't know. And that is traditionally the first step on the road to knowledge. --Mary Ellen Curtin
|Introduction to Elementary Particles
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Author: David Griffiths
In the second, revised edition of a well-established textbook, the author strikes a balance between quantitative rigor and intuitive understanding, using a lively, informal style. The first chapter provides a detailed historical introduction to the subject, while subsequent chapters offer a quantitative presentation of the Standard Model. A simplified introduction to the Feynman rules, based on a "toy" model, helps readers learn the calculational techniques without the complications of spin. It is followed by accessible treatments of quantum electrodynamics, the strong and weak interactions, and gauge theories. New chapters address neutrino oscillations and prospects for physics beyond the Standard Model. The book contains a number of worked examples and many end-of-chapter problems. A complete solution manual is available for instructors.
|Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 2nd Edition
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Author: R. Shankar
Reviews from the First Edition: "An excellent text … The postulates of quantum mechanics and the mathematical underpinnings are discussed in a clear, succinct manner." (American Scientist) "No matter how gently one introduces students to the concept of Dirac’s bras and kets, many are turned off. Shankar attacks the problem head-on in the first chapter, and in a very informal style suggests that there is nothing to be frightened of." (Physics Bulletin) Reviews of the Second Edition: "This massive text of 700 and odd pages has indeed an excellent get-up, is very verbal and expressive, and has extensively worked out calculational details---all just right for a first course. The style is conversational, more like a corridor talk or lecture notes, though arranged as a text. … It would be particularly useful to beginning students and those in allied areas like quantum chemistry." (Mathematical Reviews) R. Shankar has introduced major additions and updated key presentations in this second edition of Principles of Quantum Mechanics. New features of this innovative text include an entirely rewritten mathematical introduction, a discussion of Time-reversal invariance, and extensive coverage of a variety of path integrals and their applications. Additional highlights include: - Clear, accessible treatment of underlying mathematics - A review of Newtonian, Lagrangian, and Hamiltonian mechanics - Student understanding of quantum theory is enhanced by separate treatment of mathematical theorems and physical postulates - Unsurpassed coverage of path integrals and their relevance in contemporary physics The requisite text for advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level students, Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Second Edition is fully referenced and is supported by many exercises and solutions. The book’s self-contained chapters also make it suitable for independent study as well as for courses in applied disciplines.
|American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
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Author: Kai Bird
J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer’s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative.
In American Prometheus, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin delve deep into J. Robert Oppenheimer's life and deliver a thorough and devastatingly sad biography of the man whose very name has come to represent the culmination of 20th century physics and the irrevocable soiling of science by governments eager to exploit its products. Rich in historical detail and personal narratives, the book paints a picture of Oppenheimer as both a controlling force and victim of the mechanisms of power.
By the time the story reaches Oppenheimer's fateful Manhattan Project work, readers have been swept along much as the project's young physicists were by fate and enormous pressure. The authors allow the scientists to speak for themselves about their reactions to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, avoiding any sort of preacherly tone while revealing the utter, horrible ambiguity of the situation. For instance, Oppenheimer wrote in a letter to a friend, "The thing had to be done," then, "Circumstances are heavy with misgiving."
Many biographies of Oppenheimer end here, with the seeds of his later pacifism sown and the dangers of mixing science with politics clearly outlined. But Bird and Sherwin devote the second half of this hefty book to what happened to Oppenheimer after the bomb. For a short time, he was lionized as the ultimate patriot by a victorious nation, but things soured as the Cold War crept forward and anti-communist witchhunts focused paranoia and anti-Semitism onto Oppenheimer, destroying his career and disillusioning him about his life's work. Devastated by the atom bomb's legacy of fear, he became a vocal and passionate opponent of the Strangelovian madness that gripped the world because of the weapons he helped develop.
Twenty-five years of research went into creating American Prometheus, and there has never been a more honest and complete biography of this tragic scientific giant. The many great ironies of Oppenheimer's life are revealed through the careful reconstruction of a wealth of records, conversations, and ideas, leaving the clearest picture yet of his life. --Therese Littleton
|Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
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Author: Kristen Iversen
Full Body Burden is Kristen Iversen's story of growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant. It's also a book about the destructive power of secrets—both family secrets and government secrets. Her father's hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what they made at Rocky Flats—best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions and discovered some disturbing realities.
As this memoir unfolds, it reveals itself as a brilliant work of investigative journalism—a shocking account of the government's sustained attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents' vain attempts to seek justice in court. Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book promises to have a very long half-life.
Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content
A Q&A with the Author
Why did you write the book?
Rocky Flats was the big secret of my childhood. No one knew what they did at the plant; the rumor in the neighborhood was that they made household cleaning products. We knew nothing about radioactive and toxic contamination. My childhood was also shadowed by the secrecy surrounding my father’s alcoholism. My family was very close and loving but also troubled. I wrote the book to learn what really happened at Rocky Flats, to learn everything I could about plutonium pits and nuclear weapons and the crucial role the plant played during and after the Cold War. I also wanted to understand my family and the broader context of what it meant to grow up during the seventies. Secrecy at the level of the community and at the level of family turned out to be a central theme in the book.
One of the great ironies of my life is that I spent several years as a travel writer in Europe, looking for good stories to write about, and the biggest story turned out to be—quite literally—in my own backyard. My family and our neighbors were “Cold War warriors,” as the plutonium workers themselves were called, but no one told us.
How is Rocky Flats a global issue?
The 2011 accident at Fukushima, following the tsunami, reminded the world in a terrible way that we cannot ignore the threat of radioactive contamination, whether it comes from nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons sites. The world has experienced many nuclear disasters in recent years, including accidents at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, the Mayak facility in Russia (the “sister” plant to Rocky Flats), Rocky Flats in Colorado, and other former nuclear weapons sites around the United States such as Hanford and Fernald. The health effects of short-term, high-level radioactive contamination are fairly well known. What are the health costs of long-term, low-level radioactive exposure? Scientists and physicists continue to debate the topic, but one fact is for sure: there is no safe level of exposure to plutonium. One millionth of a gram, particularly if it is inhaled, can cause cancer.
Rocky Flats happened in my backyard, but in a sense it is happening in everyone’s back yard. Many of us live in close proximity to former nuclear weapons sites or nuclear power plants with inadequate safety provisions. And, at a time when we are supposed to be decreasing our nuclear arsenal, the U.S. government is talking about producing nuclear triggers again. We need to pay attention.
Was it hard to write so intimately about your family?
I believe that the most powerful way to tell a story is through personal, everyday experience. Every person on the planet has a story that is both ordinary and extraordinary. My siblings and I swam in the lake behind our house and rode our horses in the fields. We had, in many ways, a blessed childhood. And this kind of experience is one that many readers will share. What makes our story unique is that it connects, in ways that we never anticipated, to a broader historical and political narrative. The story of the 1969 fire at Rocky Flats—which very nearly destroyed the entire metro Denver area—is all the more powerful when you realize that my family was having a very pleasant Mother’s Day brunch at a nearby restaurant. We had no idea what was going on—and neither did other Coloradoans. It was only by including the experiences of me, my family, my neighbors, and my coworkers at Rocky Flats that I could truly bring the story to life. It was indeed a challenge to write intimately about things that, as a family, we were never supposed to discuss, including my father’s drinking. And yet the end result was a tremendous sense of clarity and understanding.
What surprised you most during your research for the book?
I was surprised, and continue to be surprised, by the secrecy surrounding this very dramatic story. What happened at Rocky Flats, during the Cold War and up to the present moment, is crucially important not only to Colorado but to the entire country. But so much of the story has been hidden over the years, and now it is in danger of being forgotten. Recently I stayed at a hotel just a few miles from the Rocky Flats site, and the young man at the front desk had grown up in Colorado. He’d never heard of Rocky Flats. Of those people who do know the story--or part of it--many believe that Rocky Flats is old history, that it’s irrelevant and insignificant. They believe the land is safe and the story is over. After all, you can’t see or smell plutonium.
Yet we cannot forget the story of Rocky Flats. The effects will linger far into the future. There were many other surprises too. During my research, I was shocked to discover how many tons of MUF, or “Missing Unaccounted For” plutonium, was missing, even to the present day. And the history of the 1989 FBI raid on Rocky Flats is fascinating. I believe it’s the only time in the history of the United States that two government agencies--the FBI and the EPA--have raided another agency, the Department of Energy.
|Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos
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Author: Peter M. Hoffmann
Life is an enduring mystery. Yet, science tells us that living beings are merely sophisticated structures of lifeless molecules. If this view is correct, where do the seemingly purposeful motions of cells and organisms originate? In Life’s Ratchet, physicist Peter M. Hoffmann locates the answer to this age-old question at the nanoscale.
Below the calm, ordered exterior of a living organism lies microscopic chaos, or what Hoffmann calls the molecular stormspecialized molecules immersed in a whirlwind of colliding water molecules. Our cells are filled with molecular machines, which, like tiny ratchets, transform random motion into ordered activity, and create the purpose” that is the hallmark of life. Tiny electrical motors turn electrical voltage into motion, nanoscale factories custom-build other molecular machines, and mechanical machines twist, untwist, separate and package strands of DNA. The cell is like a cityan unfathomable, complex collection of molecular workers working together to create something greater than themselves.
Life, Hoffman argues, emerges from the random motions of atoms filtered through these sophisticated structures of our evolved machinery. We are agglomerations of interacting nanoscale machines more amazing than anything in science fiction. Rather than relying on some mysterious life force” to drive themas people believed for centurieslife’s ratchets harness instead the second law of thermodynamics and the disorder of the molecular storm.
Grounded in Hoffmann’s own cutting-edge research, Life’s Ratchet reveals the incredible findings of modern nanotechnology to tell the story of how the noisy world of atoms gives rise to life itself.
|Radiation Detection and Measurement
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Author: Glenn F. Knoll
This is the resource that engineers turn to in the study of radiation detection. The fourth edition takes into account the technical developments that continue to enhance the instruments and techniques available for the detection and spectroscopy of ionizing radiation. New coverage is presented on ROC curves, micropattern gas detectors, new sensors for scintillation light, and the excess noise factor. Revised discussions are also included on TLDs and cryogenic spectrometers, radiation backgrounds, and the VME standard. Engineers will gain a strong understanding of the field with this updated book.
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