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Frank Close

The New Cosmic Onion

You've probably heard about the opening of the Large Hadron Collider, (and its unfortunate breakdown). You may have wondered what it is supposed to find out, and why particle physics requires such expensive equipment. If so then The New Cosmic Onion: Quarks and the Nature of the Universe by Frank Close might give you some of the answers.

The book starts with the discovery of X-rays and radioactivity, and moves on through the unravelling of the nature of atoms and their nuclei. By the 1930's we had electrons, protons and neutrons, which would seem to be sufficient, but the ever larger particle accelerators which were becoming available kept on showing the existence of new particles. By the 1960's it looked rather a mess, but the theory of the 'Eightfold Way' and then of quarks managed to make sense of it all. Close looks at the successes of quark theory, and describes the discovery of new generations of quarks - strange and charmed, bottom and top. He also examines the progress of particle physics in recent decades, including Quantum chromodynamics, Electroweak unification and supersymmetry.

The book is aimed at those wanting a better knowledge of particle physics, rather than at the popular science market as such - Close is wary of ideas which seem too speculative such as string theory and even cosmological inflation. There are a large number of tables and diagrams, which I felt rather interfered with the flow of the text, and might make the book seem rather intimidating at first glance, but I felt that anyone who was keen to learn about the subject wouldn't find it too difficult.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews