4.5* for The Mystery of the Higgs Boson by Bettina Roselt & Axel Ewers
This is the first volume in the Science Quest series. As a physicist and science fiction writer, I need some brain candy from time to time to clear out the dust bunnies collecting in my brain and this book was my snack for the summer. It refreshed my knowledge, albeit somewhat limited, of particle physics, but my favorite part of that field has always been Einstein’s infamous E=mc^2.
This book did an excellent job of getting into that quite nicely by explaining particle collisions and the various “decay channels” observed through research at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and how they eventually found the Higgs boson. It provided details and information I really enjoyed on the process for looking for such things. There was also a sprinkling of humor here and there, which is always appreciated in an otherwise dry read.
There is still so much we don’t know, which it seems is often forgotten, especially for people who are not scientists. While some scientists can be rather arrogant regarding the lay public, in reality it seems that those who know the least out there seem to think that all the mysteries of the universe have been explained. Yet, it took around a half-century from when the theory for its existence was put forth in the 1960s until scientific evidence for the Higgs boson was found. It’s situations like this which make me roll my eyes as a physicist and professional astrologer when skeptics dismiss astrology.
For instance, take gravity. We all know it’s there, can calculate its effect, but still don’t understand its mechanism on a detailed, scientific level. Quantum mechanics and the possible link between consciousness and matter is a fascinating field about which we still know relatively little. No telling what’s lurking in that domain along with psi phenomena. I loved it when they stated, “The discovery of the Higgs boson is a striking example of how much we have to stretch our imagination to reveal nature’s secrets just a little bit more.” Another jewel is, “In fact, the current physical models and theories aren’t sufficient enough to explain all the phenomena we observe in the universe.”
The one thing about this book that bothered me slightly was the fact that in a few places it was obvious that its author is not a native English speaker. Far be it from me to criticize people who are bilingual; I have tremendous admiration and respect for those who speak more than one language. And chances are the version of English the author knows is UK, not USA, so that also throws some differences in there. However, there were a few places where the syntax, and in some cases, word choice, made it a bit more difficult to understand. Fortunately, there were only a few places where this was the case.
Face it, this is pretty heavy stuff that only geeks like myself would read in the first place. Furthermore, expressing something in words which is usually expressed mathematically or perhaps via Feynman diagrams is difficult enough in your own language. Nonetheless, when you’re occasionally tripping over word choices and general sentence construction, it makes it more difficult to follow. As a physicist and writer myself, I could probably do a pretty good job editing it. But the author certainly did far better in English than I would with German where what little I know, thanks to my German neighbor, comprises spinnst-du, bitte, kartoffel, auf weidersehen, sauerbraten, and a few others, some of which aren’t appropriate for polite company.
If you have a rudimentary knowledge of particle physics and want to get into the sordid details of how they figure this stuff out at the LHC, you’ll probably enjoy this book. It definitely satisfied my scientific appetite for the summer and the insights will come in handy in writing my current science fiction novel. I do look forward to more books in this series.
If you’re a geek or nerd looking for a pretty good science fix presented with a slight German accent, you can pick up your copy here.