Present at the Creation: Discovering the Higgs Boson

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The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest, and by far the most powerful, machine ever built. A project of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, its audacious purpose is to re-create, in a 16.5-mile-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss countryside, the immensely hot and dense conditions that existed some 13.7 billion years ago within the first trillionth of a second after the fiery birth of our universe. The collider is now crashing protons at record energy levels never created by scientists before, and it will reach even higher levels by 2013. Its superconducting magnets guide two beams of protons in opposite directions around the track. After accelerating the beams to 99.9999991 percent of the speed of light, it collides the protons head-on, annihilating them in a flash of energy sufficient—in accordance with Einstein’s elegant statement of mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2—to coalesce into a shower of particles and phenomena that have not existed since the first moments of creation. Within the LHC’s detectors, scientists hope to see empirical confirmation of key theories in physics and cosmology.

In telling the story of what is perhaps the most anticipated experiment in the history of science, Amir D. Aczel takes us inside the control rooms at CERN at key moments when an international team of top researchers begins to discover whether this multibillion-euro investment will fulfill its spectacular promise. Through the eyes and words of the men and women who conceived and built CERN and the LHC—and with the same clarity and depth of knowledge he demonstrated in the bestselling Fermat’s Last Theorem—Aczel enriches all of us with a firm grounding in the scientific concepts we will need to appreciate the discoveries that will almost certainly spring forth when the full power of this great machine is finally unleashed.

Will the Higgs boson make its breathlessly awaited appearance, confirming at last the Standard Model of particles and their interactions that is among the great theoretical achievements of twentieth-century physics? Will the hidden dimensions posited by string theory be revealed? Will we at last identify the nature of the dark matter that makes up more than 90 percent of the cosmos? With Present at the Creation, written by one of today’s finest popular interpreters of basic science, we can all follow the progress of an experiment that promises to greatly satisfy the curiosity of anyone who ever concurred with Einstein when he said, “I want to know God’s thoughts—the rest is details.”


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

AMIR D. ACZEL is the author of fourteen books, including the international bestseller Fermat’s Last Theorem, which has been translated into twenty-two languages. He is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Oct 5, 2010
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780307591685
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Physics / Nuclear
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Amir D. Aczel
The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Virtually everything in our lives is digital, numerical, or quantified. The story of how and where we got these numerals, which we so depend on, has for thousands of years been shrouded in mystery. Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel's lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride.
The history begins with the early Babylonian cuneiform numbers, followed by the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the key question: where do the numbers we use today, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? It is this search that leads him to explore uncharted territory, to go on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and ultimately into the wilds of Cambodia. There he is blown away to find the earliest zero—the keystone of our entire system of numbers—on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a seventh-century temple adorned with eaten-away erotic sculptures. While on this odyssey, Aczel meets a host of fascinating characters: academics in search of truth, jungle trekkers looking for adventure, surprisingly honest politicians, shameless smugglers, and treacherous archaeological thieves—who finally reveal where our numbers come from.
Amir D. Aczel
Amir D. Aczel
Amir D. Aczel
The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Virtually everything in our lives is digital, numerical, or quantified. The story of how and where we got these numerals, which we so depend on, has for thousands of years been shrouded in mystery. Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel's lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride.
The history begins with the early Babylonian cuneiform numbers, followed by the later Greek and Roman letter numerals. Then Aczel asks the key question: where do the numbers we use today, the so-called Hindu-Arabic numerals, come from? It is this search that leads him to explore uncharted territory, to go on a grand quest into India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and ultimately into the wilds of Cambodia. There he is blown away to find the earliest zero—the keystone of our entire system of numbers—on a crumbling, vine-covered wall of a seventh-century temple adorned with eaten-away erotic sculptures. While on this odyssey, Aczel meets a host of fascinating characters: academics in search of truth, jungle trekkers looking for adventure, surprisingly honest politicians, shameless smugglers, and treacherous archaeological thieves—who finally reveal where our numbers come from.
Ken Ono
"The son of a prominent Japanese mathematician who came to the United States after World War II, Ken Ono was raised on a diet of high expectations and little praise. Rebelling against his pressure-cooker of a life, Ken determined to drop out of high school to follow his own path. To obtain his father’s approval, he invoked the biography of the famous Indian mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan, whom his father revered, who had twice flunked out of college because of his single-minded devotion to mathematics.
Ono describes his rocky path through college and graduate school, interweaving Ramanujan’s story with his own and telling how at key moments, he was inspired by Ramanujan and guided by mentors who encouraged him to pursue his interest in exploring Ramanujan’s mathematical legacy.
Picking up where others left off, beginning with the great English mathematician G.H. Hardy, who brought Ramanujan to Cambridge in 1914, Ono has devoted his mathematical career to understanding how in his short life, Ramanujan was able to discover so many deep mathematical truths, which Ramanujan believed had been sent to him as visions from a Hindu goddess. And it was Ramanujan who was ultimately the source of reconciliation between Ono and his parents.
Ono’s search for Ramanujan ranges over three continents and crosses paths with mathematicians whose lives span the globe and the entire twentieth century and beyond. Along the way, Ken made many fascinating discoveries. The most important and surprising one of all was his own humanity."
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