Close ably demonstrates the stakes in this perhaps misplaced, hubristic effort.

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THE INFINITY PUZZLE

QUANTUM FIELD THEORY AND THE HUNT FOR AN ORDERLY UNIVERSE

Close (Theoretical Physics; Oxford Univ./Neutrino, 2010, etc.) chronicles the search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle (the “God Particle”).

The author begins with Quantum Electrodynamics, Paul Dirac's groundbreaking but flawed 1928 model that unified Special Relativity and Quantum theory, and examines how it led to a succession of important discoveries: gauge invariance, renormalization, parity violations, the existence of quarks, symmetry breaking and the existence of new weird particles such as the Higgs Boson. Experiments to verify the theories needed larger and larger accelerators, with high-energy particles colliding at speeds of 300,000 kilometers per second. A major thread of the story is the interaction between the key scientists, many of whom the author knew personally, as they vied for recognition and the final accolade of a Nobel Prize. Close explains that it is not only necessary to make a great discovery but to be the first to publish it. Waiting for confirming results before publishing may prove disastrous in the competition. Throughout, the author chronicles the winners and losers in the annual Nobel sweepstakes, giving them recognition for their achievements and providing a lively thread for readers who may be struggling to comprehend the science. The story culminates with the Large Hadron Collider, which has been fully operational since 2009 but has yet to produce results. Its effort to verify the existence of the Higgs Boson by “recreat[ing] the conditions of the early universe in the laboratory” comes with a hefty price tag. In the author's view, the 60-year effort to confront “the paradox of the Infinity Puzzle has brought us to the threshold of being able to address the question of existence itself.”

Close ably demonstrates the stakes in this perhaps misplaced, hubristic effort.  

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-465-02144-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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