‘The Infinity Puzzle’ – Frank Close
“Old men forget… But he’ll remember with advantages, what feats he did that day” Shakespeare, Henry V.
First impressions: this book is a lot bigger than it looked in the picture. But I think in this case it’s the exception to the rule that good things come in small packages. It’s a good 400 pages worth of fascinating insights into the world of Physics, both scientifically and professionally.
Starting with the title, Frank Close spends time explaining what the “infinity puzzle” actually is. And from there we jump back to the 1940s, and explore the events, the discoveries, papers, collaborations, disagreements that led to what practically everyone has heard of, the Large Hadron Collider.
What struck me was the mix throughout the book of social niceties and the “backstabbings”. So much credit was given where it was due, with everyone actively talking to each other comparing notes and ideas. But on the other side was secrecy, with a lot of people trying to jump on a discovery’s bandwagon because they suffered from Nobelitis, distraction by possibility of a Nobel Prize.
Another surprise was the amount of new ideas and concepts that came from people who were just finishing university or starting their PhD, complex ideas that led to recognition and even for some, the highly sought Nobel Prize for Physics.
Dispersed through the tale of how Particle Physics was revolutionised are simple, concise and extremely clear explanations of most of the Physics involved. This isn’t exactly a textbook for someone wanting to understand Particle Physics, but it assists in understanding the significance of what has happened throughout the years.
The last couple of chapters are based on CERN and the building of the LHC, again telling the story of competition across the Atlantic, wrangling funding from Margaret Thatcher and scaremongers convincing everyone that the world would end when the LHC was turned on.
The topic of this book is an interesting one. It’s not like a popular science book written by the physicists we see on TV, or a coffee table book to skim through. It brings the history and the politics of the Physics world to you and adds to your knowledge. I would never have known half of what I’ve just learned if Frank Close hadn’t written this book. And I also suspect that I wouldn’t necessarily have picked it up at all if it wasn’t his book. I feel you have to be an incredibly skilled writer to be able to not only describe what happened, but to keep the reader reading until the very last page.
Posted on August 11, 2012, in Book, Particle Physics, Physics and tagged CERN, Frank Close, LHC, Oxford, Particle Physics, Professor Frank Close, The Infinity Puzzle. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.