Review :

A wonderful book. If you want to know about the current state of particle physics, the hunt for the Higgs particle, or what scientists are doing with their powerful 'toys' (the current big-boy being the Large Hadron Collider), this is the book to read.

Starting with the history of particles (and fields), the book goes on to show how one mystery mystified scientists: why do some particles (like protons, neutrons and electrons) have mass while others (like photons) don't. It would take scientists like Peter Higgs and others to propose the answer: a scalar field (and associated particle) that gives mass to those particles.

With backing from the electroweak theory (the theory that unifies the electromagnetic and weak forces) that depends on the Higgs field and the discovery of the particles predicted by the electroweak theory, the hunt was on to find the Higgs particle.

The book now moves to the dramatic part: the race between CERN and Fermilab to be the first to discover the Higgs particle (with the Superconducting Supercollider suffering collateral damage along the way).

You get a real sense of the tensions and stresses felt by both the people, who want to be the first to find the Higgs, and the machines, which were being pushed well beyond their initial designed capabilities.

In closing, the book looks at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and speculates on what the finding of the Higgs particle will mean for the future of particle physics: will it's discovery point to 'new physics' beyond the Standard Model or leave the Model 'complete' with nothing else to hunt for

One section looks at the alarmist (at the time) who believe the LHC (and its predecessors) could destroy the Earth or the Universe. What the section shows is that scientists in the future will have to really consider the possibility that they could destroy the universe as we know it as particle accelerators get more powerful and explore increasingly exotic areas of physics.

The future is interesting and I look forward to discovering whether the LHC has discovered the Higgs particle (in a few weeks time at the of writing).

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