Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God
Particle by Jim Baggott
a milestone in physics explained well
Baggott had this chronicle of the background and discovery of the Higgs Boson prepared
and ready to rush into publication when its inevitable discovery by CERN was
announced on 4 July 2012. His previous extensive history of quantum theory is
complemented by this book. Alas, as with any exposition of quantum mechanics, to
read is not necessarily to (fully) comprehend. That's why you need very thick text books bristling with the accompanying maths. This is not a criticism of 'Higgs', just a reality check which is equally appropriate for any popular
science book on quantum theory.
This point aside, Bagott goes through the first fifty years of quantum theorisation
with a refreshing emphasis on symmetry and the original conjecture by Amalie
Noether which helped launch the logic behind quantum theory. The second half of
'Higgs' describes the compilation of the Standard Model, with alternatives
considered, and the immense engineering enterprises launched to prove it.
Baggott then takes time to consider where quantum physics, and its tools such as
the Large Hadron Collider, will go next. In his Epilogue: The Construction of
Mass, Baggott takes two pages to summarise the quest to understand what mass
is. The Endnotes, Glossary and Index are excellent.
This is a worthwhile documentation of the developments in a field of science that, to date, has culminated in the discovery of the Higgs boson. It is embellished by Baggott's
extensive knowledge and earlier writing around the subject, and by his significant insights and dry sense of humour.