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Particle physics is as much a science about today’s universe as it is of the early universe. By discovering the basic building blocks of matter and their interactions, we are able to construct a language in which to frame questions about the early universe. What were the first forms of matter created in the early universe? What interactions were present in the early universe and how are they related to what we measure now? While we cannot return space-time to the initial configuration of the early universe, we can effectively turn back the clock when it comes to elementary particles by probing the interactions of matter at high energy. What we learn from studying high-energy interactions is that the universe is much simpler than what is observed at “room temperature” and that the interactions are a reflection of fundamental symmetries in Nature. An overview of the modern understanding of particle physics is described below with a more quantitative approach given in subsequent chapters and finally with a review of measurements, discoveries, and anticipated discoveries, that provide or will provide the experimental facts to support these theories.
We begin with the notion of a fundamental form of matter, an elementary particle. An elementary particle is treated as a pointlike object whose propagation through space is governed by a relativistically invariant equation of motion. The equation of motion takes on a particular form according to the intrinsic spin of the particle and whether the particle has a nonzero rest mass. In this introduction, we begin by assuming that elementary particles are massless and investigate the possible quantum numbers and degrees of freedom of elementary particle states.
Excerpted from ELEMENTARY PARTICLE PHYSICS by Christopher G. Tully. Copyright © 2011 by Princeton University Press.
Thanks to the birth of the Large Hadron Collider, a new era has dawned in particle physics. Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell summarizes our insights to date, with Christopher Tully spotlighting the current status of theory and experiments alike.
A survey of the Standard Model
An introductory chapter offers an overview of elementary particle physics. By pinpointing the building blocks of matter and their interactions, we can learn not only about the universe today but also its distant past. Beginning with the notion of an “elementary particle,” Tully walks us through the highlights of the Standard Model. This framework consists of six quarks, six leptons, and four forces, as well as the Higgs boson, a major target of the LHC.
We next turn to address one of the most profound equations in particle physics, the Dirac equation, along with quantum electrodynamics. Consider a spin-1/2 particle such as an electron; the rotations of its spin and the states of the system are easily describable. Now take the electron and “Lorentz boost” it into a frame moving to the right. How do we construct a wavefunction of a relativistic electron? The answer leads us to the Dirac equation, which introduces antiparticles—the first of several symmetry extensions to the structure of matter.
From here, we investigate gauge theories, which originate from the existence of degrees of freedom in the description of elementary particle states that are indeterminate and have no effect on the predicted outcomes of any experiment. The “gauge principle” states that the existence and form of an interaction may be deduced from the existence of physically indeterminate, gaugeable quantities.
Tully proceeds to describe the properties of hadrons, composite particles made of quarks held together by the strong force. We see how these particles manifest themselves from the confinement of quarks and gluons into “color-neutral bound states,” a concept that arises from the theory of the strong interaction, also known as quantum chromodynamics.
A focus on experimental insights
We move to the experimental side of the field with a chapter on detectors and measurements. Rather than profiling types of devices and their uses as a starting point, Tully organizes his discussion from the perspective of the particle type to be measured, followed by a review of the experimental methods involved.
A separate chapter includes a look at neutrino oscillations. The realization that one type of neutrino can change into a separate type has helped to resolve a longstanding problem concerning the measured production rate of neutrinos in the Sun’s interior, and suggested that they possess mass.
An extensive number of processes in high-energy electron-positron collider physics have been predicted and measured to high precision; and an entire chapter is devoted to this phenomenon. Among the interactions we study is the “two-photon reaction,” which is described by the collision of two photons, each emitted from the incoming electron and positron, to form a two-fermion final state in addition to the scattered electron and positron.
The energy frontier in experimental particle physics is at hadron colliders, and it is to these that we turn next. Superconducting magnets permit high-momentum protons and antiprotons to be accumulated and ramped to the highest energies with negligible energy loss. The collisions of hadrons probe a wide range of length scales.
Finally, Tully addresses Higgs physics. The Higgs mechanism, which consists of a spontaneous breaking of the electroweak symmetry, is an elegant solution to several outstanding problems in particle physics. It is the quarry of a large-scale search at the LHC, and Tully explores the motivation and status of this hunt.
Complete with end-of-chapter exercises, Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell offers an exhilarating tour of this fast-evolving field.
Hardcover Book : 320 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press ( October 23, 2011 )
Item #: 13-516846
Product Dimensions: 7.0 x 10.0 inches
Product Weight: 25.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I thought I was reviewing "The Universe in a Nutshell", when I submitted the review for "Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell". William S was absolutely right with his review. Definitely a graduate level book, with a need for a strong math background.
Reviewer: Robert G
Admittingly, I have a strong technical background as an engineer so that all of the math presented was easily understood. I would highly recommend this book to any person that has some skills in algebra and one year of undergraduate physics. Many difficult mathematical concepts, which normally require advanced math are explained by the authors in non mathematical terms, which are easily understood.
Reviewer: Robert G
This is a graduate-level textbook, more advanced than either its name or club description might lead you to guess. In order to make the best use of it you must already have a working knowledge of relativistic quantum mechanics, Feynman diagrams, and integral variational techniques. The author assumes that the reader already has this background and it is given a light review at best before the meat of the text is reached. I had hoped for a relatively popular introduction to the topics presented. What is actually provided is a mathematical theory, stated concisely, with the understanding that the reader can understand the math. I have a working knowledge of "classical" (Schroedinger) non-relativistic quantum mechanics, together with a relatively qualitative understanding of Feynaman diagrams. I possess a basic understanding of how variational techniques work, just enough to follow a calculation (sort of), but could not construct a calculation on my own. Consequently, I find the text rather heavy going, and surely didn't extract much of the information that is here. If you are looking for a popular, up-to-date survey of the field, unfortunately this book is probably not for you. It is exactly what the author describes in the introduction: a mathematically detailed survey of the state of particle physics on the eve of the LHC, aimed towards readers already conversant with the problems and techniques of the field.
Reviewer: William S