Home Authors Books Subjects Events Software Features Links Newsletter Gifts Blog Write Review What's New

Review - Collider - Paul Halpern



Visit bookshop

 

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is set to give us deep insights into the nature of matter and the origins of the universe. It could provide evidence of extra dimensions, and give us an idea of whether string theorists are on the right track. This is fascinating stuff, and it is what Paul Halpern aims to explain in Collider, after first giving us a history of high energy physics and particle accelerators.

I wasn't very optimistic about the book at first. It jumps straight into the Higgs mechanism and spontaneous symmetry breaking without explaining these concepts in much detail for the layperson. I was a little worried the book was going to turn out to be over-technical, and only fully understandable to those with a physics degree. Luckily, this wasn't the case at all, and when the book gets on to talking about the LHC in detail, and how it works and what it will be looking for, the concepts are fleshed out clearly and simply. In fact, Halpern has a knack of explaining tricky ideas well for the general reader in the minimum of words. Where something isn't entirely clear, the book still leaves the reader with a fairly good grasp of what's being discussed.

Overall, the science of the LHC is covered quite well, and there's an entertaining section on 'Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider', a group concerned about world destroying scenarios at CERN, in which Halpern explains why there's nothing to worry about. The most readable parts of the book, however, are in the middle, where it covers earlier high energy research and the people involved.

The best chapter is on the first particle accelerators, and contains a significant amount of biographical information about Ernest Rutherford, Ernest Walton, John Cockcroft, Ernest Lawrence, and Rolf Wideroe, someone I knew little about beforehand. Wideroe was a Norwegian engineer whose research provided a lot of the impetus for Rutherford's team at the Canvendish Laboratory in Cambridge to build the linear accelerator they used to split the nucleus of lithium. He also inspired Lawrence to build the first cyclotron, a circular accelerator. Another highlight, which again shows the book is rather better on history and surrounding issues, is the account of what happened to the Superconducting Super Collider, intended for Texas but eventually never completed. The section contains a number of lessons to be borne in mind when future, similar projects are planned.

There's one small point. The book costs 19.00 in the shops, which I think is a bit much; 15.00 would be more appropriate. Overall, though, this is an interesting book, great for anyone wanting to know what could happen at the LHC over the coming years and the context in which the project has been developed. This is definitely a solid four star book, and I got a lot from it.

Also in paperback from October 2010 Visit bookshop Visit bookshop

Community review by Matt Chorley

DISCLAIMERS

This site has no connection with Popular Science magazine or other sites and publications with a similar name.

Much of the content of this site is written by popular science writers or friends of popular science writers. Inevitably many of the reviews in such a small community are written by or about someone we know. We always aim to be impartial in our reviews, but there is a connection which we need make clear, as there is no intention to deceive. The content of any review or article is solely the opinion of the author and should not be read or understood on any other basis. The site exists to promote popular science writing and popular science authors and for this reason should be considered promotional material, just as the editorial reviews in an online bookshop or the blurb on the back of a book should be considered promotional.

The website should not be eaten or used where it can come into contact with water.

Disagree with our review? Want to comment on a feature? Contact us at info@ popularscience.co.uk - have your say!

Part of the Popular Science  site

Copyright Creativity Unleashed Limited 2005
Last update 05 June 2007