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The Infinity Puzzle

The Infinity Puzzle

Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe

Speculation is rife that by 2012 the elusive Higgs boson will be found at the Large Hadron Collider. If found, the Higgs boson would help explain why everything has mass. But there’s more at stake-what we’re really testing is our capacity to make the universe reasonable. Our best understanding of physics is predicated on something known as quantum field theory. Unfortunately, in its raw form, it doesn’t make sense-its outputs are physically impossible infinite percentages when they should be something simpler, like the number 1. The kind of physics that the Higgs boson represents seeks to “renormalize” field theory, forcing equations to provide answers that match what we see in the real world.The Infinity Puzzle is the story of a wild idea on the road to acceptance. Only Close can tell it.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Science / History

On Sale: November 29th 2011

Price: $12.99

Page Count: 464

ISBN-13: 9780465028030

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reader reviews


"Close chronicles the search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle (the 'God Particle').... 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."—Kirkus Reviews
"The Infinity Puzzle is eminently readable. It has no equations--only a few Feynman diagrams--and a glossary in the back so you don't get your bosons confused with your hadrons.... All of the luminaries of twentieth century particle physics are here, along with many unsung heroes whose contributions Dr. Close explains and puts into context so they can be better appreciated by a public hitherto ignorant of their work.... [T]he entire book is a very manageable introduction to quantum physics for those who are interested in, but possibly intimidated by, understanding the inner workings of the fabric of our Universe."—Ars Technica
"Building the standard model, the flagship theory of modern particle physics, was no mean task. It took decades of painstaking work to bring the forces and elementary particles that make up the universe together in a single framework (which still doesn't include gravity). Close, a theoretical physicist, chronicles this history from an insider's perspective.... the story doesn't unfold as a simple, clearly developing line of thought. Instead, the reader witnesses scientific progress in all its real-world messiness. It's a comedy of errors at times, full of dead ends, missed opportunities and ideas that lie dormant for years, unproven or unnoticed."—Science News
"In his new book, Oxford physicist Frank Close reviews decades' worth of brain-teasing theories and looks ahead to puzzles yet to be solved.... Close's tale illustrates that the course of true science doesn't always run smooth. It may well turn out that the long-sought Higgs boson is a will-o'-the-wisp, and physicists will have to go back to square one. But even that won't render The Infinity Puzzle out of date."—Alan Boyle,'s Cosmic Log
"As someone who can deftly explain abstruse quantum field theory to a lay reader, Frank Close is a rarity among physicists. Rarer still, he knows how to weave a compelling tale--that of the 'infinity problem,' which has bedeviled the field of quantum electrodynamics and subsequent attempts to unify the forces of nature. The result is a great scientific whodunit, replete with a large, engaging cast of characters, behind-the-scenes maneuvering, and unexpected twists and turns. Here is proof that Close belongs among the very first rank of scientist-authors. I strongly recommend The Infinity Puzzle."—Steve Nadis, coauthor of The Shape of Inner Space
"It is a pleasure to read a book on recent advances in our understanding of the structure of matter by an author who not only understands the subject but also takes care to investigate conflicting accounts of how these advances came about."—Peter Higgs, emeritus professor of physics, The University of Edinburgh
"Superb.... The Infinity Puzzle presents in light and fetching prose a (and you should pardon the pun) close-up of a wonderful set of episodes in contemporary science centered around one of the single most beautiful edifices of modern theoretical physics, quantum field theory, and leading up to the hottest example of big science to be found on the globe today."—MAA Reviews
"Mr Close, an accomplished particle physicist in his own right, enjoyed unprecedented access to all the principal players, many of whom he either knows well or, like Mr Higgs, has spoken to at length. He also appears to have left no relevant academic paper, no conference proceedings, memoir or other publicly available source unturned. This painstaking attention to historical detail yields many gems.... Mr Close's magisterial work is sure to become the definitive account of the story. It offers no unambiguous advice to the Nobel committee. But the judges would be wise to give it a thorough read anyway."—Economist
"[A] thoroughly researched and well-crafted narrative.... [Close] focuses on the triumphs and failures of the physicists behind the equations, providing a realistic view of how theoretical physics really progresses--the all-too-human endeavour fraught with personal ambitions, rivalries, alliances, errors and plain historical accident.... It's refreshing to read a popular physics book that doesn't revisit the same well-trodden ground of so many before it."—New Scientist