The Particle at the End of the Universe
How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World
The Particle at the End of the Universe is a popular-level book on the Higgs boson and the Large Hadron Collider, published by Dutton in November, 2012.
The Higgs boson. Key to understanding why mass exists and how atoms are possible, this elusive particle has finally been found after $9 billion, decades of effort, and the work of over six thousand researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. In 2012, the history of a quest that began with the atomists of ancient Greece over 2,500 years ago reached a dramatic and historic turning point.
Caltech physicist and acclaimed writer Sean Carroll takes readers behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, to meet the theorists, engineers, and experimentalists, illuminate this landmark event, and explain the science of the Higgs boson, infamously known as “the God Particle.”
What is so special about the Higgs boson? As Sean Carroll eloquently explains, without it we wouldn’t understand how elementary particles could have mass at all. With it, we have found the final piece of the puzzle of ordinary matter: the atoms and forces underlying everything from DNA to global warming. Now a doorway is opening into the extraordinary: the mind-boggling world of dark matter and beyond. The Higgs discovery represents a triumph of the human passion for discovery, and the dawn of a new era in our exploration of the cosmos.
The Particle at the End of the Universe not only explains the importance of the Higgs boson but also the Large Hadron Collider — the largest machine ever built. Such a project could not have happened without a certain amount of conniving, dealing, and occasional skullduggery — and Sean Carroll explores it all. This is an irresistible story of how the human thirst for understanding led to the greatest scientific achievement of our time.
Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993, and worked at MIT, the Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago before moving to Caltech. His research involves theoretical physics and astrophysics, focusing on issues in cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. He is the author of Spacetime and Geometry, a graduate-level textbook on general relativity; has produced a set of introductory lectures for The Teaching Company entitled Dark Matter and Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe; and blogs regularly at Cosmic Variance. His lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette.
- The Point
- Next to Godliness
- Atoms and Particles
- The Accelerator Story
- The Largest Machine Ever Built
- Wisdom Through Smashing
- Particles in the Waves
- Through a Broken Mirror
- Bringing Down the House
- Spreading the Word
- Nobel Dreams
- Beyond This Horizon
- Making It Worth Defending
- Appendix One: Mass and Spin
- Appendix Two: Standard Model Particles
- Appendix Three: Particles and Their Interactions
- Further Reading
- “In this superb book, Sean Carroll provides a fascinating and lucid look at the most mysterious and important particle in nature, and the experiment that revealed it. Anyone with an interest in physics should read this, and join him in examining the new worlds of physics to which this discovery may lead.” –Leonard Mlodinow, author of The Drunkard’s Walk
- “Carroll tells the story of the particle that everyone has heard of but few of us actually understand. After you read his book — an enticing cocktail of personal anecdote, clever analogy, and a small dose of mind-bending theory — you will truly grasp why the Higgs boson has been sought after for so long by so many. Carroll is a believer in big science asking big questions and his beliefs are infectious and inspiring.” –Morgan Freeman, Actor and Executive Producer of Through the Wormhole
- “The science is authoritative, yet bold and lively. The narrative is richly documented, yet full of human drama. Carroll’s saga pulls you aboard a modern voyage of discovery.” –Frank Wilczek, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
- “With his trademark wit and lucidity, Carroll delivers the story of the search for the elusive Higgs boson… Carroll’s clarity and unbridled enthusiasm reveal the pure excitement of discovery as much as they illuminate the facts.” –Publishers Weekly
- “A leading particle physicist explains why the official confirmation of the existence of the elusive Higgs Boson (‘the God Particle’) was a world-changing scientific milestone… A fascinating chronicle of an important chapter in fundamental science.” –Kirkus Reviews
- NPR, Adam Frank
- New Scientist, Michael Brooks
- Science News, Alex Witze
- Times Higher Education Supplement (book of the week), Frank Close
- Los Angeles Times, David Ulin
- Scientific American, Anna Kuchment
- Blogcritics.org, Joseph Maresca
- About.com, Andrew Zimmerman
- TED Blog, Kate Torgovnick
- Financial Times, Clive Cookson
- The Independent (UK), Manjit Kumar
- Nature, John Butterworth
- The Guardian, Best Science Books of 2012, Tim Radford
These are errata from when the book initially came out; they should be fixed in subsequent printings. Thanks to all who let me know about them.
- pg. 57: The direction of the magnetic force is backwards. The trajectory on top should read “negatively charged particle”, and the one on the bottom should read “positively charged particle.” Likewise, the caption should say “it pushes positively charged particles in a clockwise direction, negatively charged particles in a counterclockwise direction, and neutral particles not at all”.
- pg. 67: The temperature in RHIC was 7 trillion degrees Fahrenheit, not seven million.
- pg. 84: “Twenty-seven mile course” should be “seventeen-mile course” (which is twenty-seven kilometers).
- pg. 86: Typo — “kinectic” should be “kinetic”.
- pg. 121: “Run the current next to a magnet” should really be “run the current next to a compass”.
- pg. 122: In the discussion of TV remote controls, “creating a radio wave” should be “creating a pulse of infrared light”.
- pg. 133: “The number of leptons is exactly one” should be “the number of leptons is exactly zero”.
- pg. 168: In addition to Wilczek’s work, I should have mentioned the influential paper by H. Georgi, S.L. Glashow, M. Machacek, and D. V. Nanopoulos, Phys. Rev. Lett. 40 692 (1978), which investigated specifically how Higgs bosons could be produced by gluon fusion in hadron collisions. (Not “protein collisions,” as it appears in some printings.)
- pg. 210: De Hevesy won the Nobel in 1943, not 1944.
- pg. 214: “…proportional to velocity” should be “…proportional to frequency”.
- pg. 217: Jeffrey Goldstone is “British-born”, not “Scottish”.
- pg. 218: In the figure, “1 massive scalar boson” should be singular, not plural.
- pg. 223: Peter Higgs is no more Scottish than Jeffrey Goldstone is. Change “returned to his native Scotland” to “moved to Scotland”. And he attended Kings College London, not University College London. (Sorry, Prof. Higgs.)
- pg. 225: In the figure, it should refer to “(gauge)” symmetry breaking, not “(global)”, and again “1 massive scalar boson” should be singular.
- pg. 230: The incoming quarks in the bottom diagram should be down/up/down, not down/up/up.
- pg. 234: Glashow and Weinberg were Nobel Laureates in 1979, not 1977.
- pg. 271: The quote attributed to Yogi Berra (“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”) is actually of unknown provenance, but often attributed to Niels Bohr.
- pg. 294: The fermion chart is a mess. The down-type quarks have charge -1/3, not +1/3. And the labels on the particles should be fixed, as shown here.