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home : features : the bookshelf August 28, 2014

1/8/2013 5:00:00 PM
Book details the chase for the Higgs boson particle
Rosita Smith

BLYTHE - In 1980, the United States Congress proposed funding for construction of a Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) deep underground in Texas. But the proposal was withdrawn because politics, bureaucracy and infighting got in the way when Congress could not discern that anything of significant value would be forthcoming.

In the years since our Congress withdrew its sponsorship for the SSC, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has stepped in to fill the void. Seeking to revitalize physics in postwar Europe, CERN is the second largest city in Switzerland with access to financial centers, diplomacy pacts and watch-making legacies. Under CERN's umbrella, a large Hadron Collider (LHC) was constructed, a huge underground circular tunnel curving underground below the borders of Switzerland and France.

In 2008, the LHC was fired up for the first time. All the gathered participants were giddy with anticipation, visualizing all the new insights and information that could be extracted from this mammoth machine.

Jump forward to July 4, 2012, the opening day of the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia.

On this particular July day the attendees were celebrating the LHC success and the era of discovery that had been officially announced where hypostases can finally be tested against real data. The hundreds of physicists who had worked on the project were officially recognized, a list that contained hundreds of names from around the world.

And what were all these people searching for? The Higgs boson particle: the most mysterious and most important particle in nature.

The Particle at the End of the Universe, written by Sean Carroll, takes the reader on a spellbinding trip as the Higgs boson particle, which is the bridge between our world and the galaxy beyond, is chased, and eventually caught and identified.

Writing in understandable, easy to follow, layman prose, Carroll is able to convey technical physics language into easily understood layman language that is fully comprehendible for the average reader.

And what about those dubious congresspersons that decided not to fund the SSC project back in the 1980s because they could see no useful outcome? Inventions along the discovery way, many of them established to make the physicist's research easier, include the World Wide Web (for easier communication between researchers and to store and share their discoveries with others); our wireless computer connections; the omnipresent cell phones that we can't do without; the TV's remote control; even the microwave ovens that heats our coffee in the morning and cooks our dinner when we are just too tired to cook in the evening.

The Particle at the End of the Universe, is currently circulating at the Palo Verde Valley Library. You'll find it on the new non-fiction shelf under 539.721 CARRO. Look for a dark brown spine with white printed title along the entire spine.

The Palo Verde Valley Library is at the corner of Broadway and Chanslorway in Blythe. The library runs on California time, opening weekdays at 10 in the morning and closing at 6 in the evening.

On Saturday the hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 in the afternoon.

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