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The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  603 ratings  ·  66 reviews
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. Unfortunate ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published November 29th 2011 by Basic Books (first published October 27th 2011)
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Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I must say that this book left me a bit disappointed and quite underwhelmed: it is well written, very detailed when describing the historical evolution of modern particle physics, rich with anecdotal detail and also conceptually precise and lucid, but it simply does not contain enough actual physics.
On the positive side, some subjects of great interest are addressed by the author in a succinct, informative and clear way, accessible even to the novice (including items, like gauge field theories,
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
Close provided a history of quantum physics from QED and Feynman's diagrams to the hunt for the Higgs. I never get tired of Feynman's antics, and it's clear Frank Close doesn't either. Like so many other researchers with new and bold ideas, Feynman's new ideas associated with QED were not taken seriously. The debates were always very heated, so much so, that one time, Feynman gave up mid lecture (even though he was right!). He came back the next time with his (not yet) famous diagrams. But even ...more
Brian Clegg
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really important popular science book if you are interested in physics, because it covers some of the important bits of modern physics that most of us science writers are too afraid to write about. Starting with renormalization in QED, the technique used to get rid of the unwanted infinities that plagued the early versions of the theory and moving on to the weak force, the massive W and Z bosons, the Higgs business and the development of the concept of quarks and some aspects of the th ...more
Stephie Iris Williams
I have to admit this is not much of a review. For one I read last year, and for two I made very few notes.

I feel this was more of a tour of quantum physics. But, what infinity had to do with, unless I missed it, never showed up. [Disclaimer it could be there and I might have forgot] And it failed to provide a very good over view of the nuts and bolts of quantum field theory.

So, I did rate it 3 ⭐️s. It wasn't boring and fairly well written, although not with the panache of my more favored authors
This is a detailed history of the discoveries of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), and their unification into the Standard Model by spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism. It's one of those people-driven histories of science, which can get boring if not petty at times. But overall, it tells an exciting story of this impressive achievement.

The central theme of the book is renormalization in Gauge Theory. The first half of the book introduces the reader to
Michael Huang
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book is written by a good scientist who wrote some other very clear work and about some fascinating hardcore particle physics. I fully expect it to be a 4- if not 5-star book. Unfortunately, this is deeply disappointing. No doubt it’s not a simple subject and it’s not easy for laymen to understand. Try this: “The question [...] was this: If symmetry is spontaneously broken in the presence of a massless vector-gauge boson (such as a photon), which gives rise to a long-range force, does the Go ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There's almost not a wasted word in this book. If you blink while listening, you might lose track of the physics. The author is very good at writing a history of quantum science from QED to looking for the Higgs boson.

He uses the narrative of the scientific players to describe the physics. There is nothing of the physics or the math for which he does not explain before he talks about it. The problem is the author explains the physics at the moment of introduction than assumes that you will under
Abu Hayat Khan
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This book talks about the history of physics since the WWII. It has a particular discussion on two prominent figures in physics: the Dutch physicist Gerard 't Hooft, and the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. For general people, probably this is the best book on Higgs Boson, from the evolution of Higgs mechanism until its final discovery in LHC.

Similar to classical physics, quantum physics has two eras of development. One goes by the name "Quantum mechanics" and the second one as "Quantum field th
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have always been fascinated by the whole business of the unification of the world of the electron and the photon with the so-called weak force that mediates radioactive decay. As someone with an undergraduate physics degree and a PhD and subsequent career in MRI physics, I have a bit of an advantage over an “average layperson,” but in fact I have none of the relevant background to understand the technicalities of quantum electrodynamics (QED), let alone quantum field theory (QFT), other than t ...more
Long Nguyen
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you are fascinated at all with recent (and by recent, I mean the latter half of the 20th century) development in physics, and the major players involved, then this book is for you. I am of the personal belief that even though science at its best is about the world, what makes science human is the people behind it. And they, like you or I, have feelings, aspirations, and interests. They also make mistakes, sometimes benign, sometimes tragic.

Despite my general knowledge, this book still has pla
Neal Alexander
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The theories and personalities that took particle physics from the end of World War II to the discovery of the Higgs boson, with reflections on what should and does make for a Nobel prize. Fairly technical language, with Feynman diagrams and facsimiles of notebooks and published papers, although few if any equations in the main text. The author tries to build a story out of the physicists involved but it doesn’t quite come alive, maybe because the cast list is too long. In the end what's stayed ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jan 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This was definitely not what I thought it was going to be. It was more of a history of the various forerunners into the ideas that go behind much of theoretical physics and quantum field theory but contained very little science in it. Frankly I could care less who got noble prizes for what and who got shafted, I am more interested in the theories and current understanding itself which this book only slightly got into.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe was published in late 2011, just as experimental physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were homing in on the long-sought Higgs particle. In this book, British particle physicist Frank Close successfully meets two very difficult challenges.

First, Close provides a non-mathematical but honest account of the most important developments in theoretical elementary particle physics over the last several decades. It is
Frank Peters
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has a very pleasant writing style, and with the exception of the beginning and end the book was captivating. For reasons that I don’t understand (so cannot state anything objective), I found it hard to get into initially. But, after 40-50 pages, I was caught. I feel a bit sorry for a few of the historic physicists. At least one was clearly not liked by the author, such that by the time I finished the book, I felt (emotionally) that he did not deserve his Nobel. Then there was Bjorken, ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is a lot to absorb here and it took me a lot of time to get through it all. I am still quite sure that I will have to through it again for things I probably missed.

The 4 stars are for depth and breadth of ideas covered. As for the way the book is organized and it’s clear presentation of the evolution of the ideas, 3 is more like it.

Perhaps, a better way to present it would have been something along the lines of the following:

Idea X - what it is, why it is important, its interrelationships
Bill Leach
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent history of the development of particle physics from Quantum Electrodynamics through to the demonstration of the Higgs at the LHC. Frank Close steps the reader through each development, organizing the narrative around the work of each leading scientist.

The development is complex with the concepts of the Higgs mechanism and quarks finally leading to Quantum Chromodynamics which explains the strong force. It is surprising how much of the work was done on a mathematical basis that was o
Shāhruq Sarfarāz
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that Frank Close is my favourite physicist when it comes to literature. This book is yet another masterpiece to not grasp knowledge about quantum physics - its development from the discovery of weak nuclear force, unification of electromagnetism and weak nuclear force, to understand superconductivity, Higgs boson etc. And not to forget it was really a pleasure to read through the mini-biographies of some great particle physicists.

This book is definitely not for starters who do n
Ken Dilella
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
if you remove what was and what could be the book would be good. Re living the history again in another book was frustrating especially this one. Way too many names mentioned. Quantum field theory was mentioned twice despite it appearing on the front cover. I believe the author is a super symmetry theorist as that is mentioned many times throughout the book but without an endorsement. Very good descriptions of the Higgs boson (the book was written a year before the higgs "discovery") throughout ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The last book I read, many years ago, on particle physics was called The Dancing Wu Li Masters, which was published back in 1979. Much has happened since then, and I picked this book to try to catch up on this interesting field of physics. But all of the concepts and ideas and terms discussed in this book (e.g. broken symmetry, Yang-Mills theory, SU(2) x U(1), gauge invariance, and many others) were a lot to grasp and appreciate for me. I think this is a good book, but I think you will like this ...more
Arthur Ryman
Sep 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This books traces the historical development of the Standard Model. I enjoyed it but found it somewhat repetitive and thought that the author spent too much time discussing the details of the various priority claims, especially those dealing with Abdus Salam. I would have enjoyed a deeper explanation of the underlying mathematics and physics of the Standard Model. I did come away inspired to learn more about 't Hooft's proof that the electroweak gauge theory is renormalizable. So in that respect ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good but a lengthy book with relatively less physics meat and more of history. The books starts off very interestingly about a relatively unknown t’ Hooft with the bugbear problem of infinities at quantum scale when it comes to measurements. However it digresses into history, conversations and conferences throwing the reader off the hook by easily forgetting about the point of discussion - the infinity problem. 4 stars because I deem it as a physics history book than a book of physics.
Andy Yule
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book both hard going and fascinating.
It tells the story of the last 50 years of atomic physics, culminating in the building of the Large Hadron Collider to search for proof of the Highs boson.
The physics is sometimes rather hard to understand and the story of controversy over Nobel prizes is told very cautiously, I suspect with a conscious effort to avoid sensationalism.
Mark Schnell
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was great, although it did not answer what for me was the important question: why can physicists calculate to nine decimal places of accuracy physical quantities in quantum electrodynamics, yet cannot estimate the cost of building the Superconducting Supercollider in Waxahachie, Texas to the nearest billion dollars?
Riccardo Baroni
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book opened, and blew, my mind. The Infinity Puzzle explained extremly complicate concepts to a beginner and I understood the concepts fully. The book is also enriched with some of the author's life. I reallu recommend this book to anyone who is interested in quantum physics and the standard model. ...more
Jeremiah Raymond Morofsky
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A few questions of the main subject material have now been answered within the scientific community, making the book a little bit dated; but the read on the historical context of its presented timeline leading to our modern era remains fascinating and a worthwhile read.
Theodore Carrigan-Broda
A thorough (albeit a bit dry) account of the long, occasionally disputatious, and surprisingly sinuous route to the development of the standard model in modern particle physics, written for physics laypeople
May 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a book about the history and the people who worked to develop modern quantum field theory, including the theories and tge duscoveries of the weak and strong forces plus what is now called the Higgs Boson. It is not a good introduction to the science.
James Galloway
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Books about the mathematics of quantum physics can sometimes have dull parts.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Really more interested in who deserves which Nobels than in explaining concepts or why they matter.
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Updated Universe Comprehension... 1 5 Feb 17, 2012 02:11AM  

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Francis Edwin Close (Arabic: فرانك كلوس)

In addition to his scientific research, he is known for his lectures and writings making science intelligible to a wider audience.

From Oxford he went to Stanford University in California for two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow on the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In 1973 he went to the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire and then to CERN in Switzerland fro

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