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The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of Modern Physics

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  48 reviews
There are two scientific theories that, taken together, explain the entire universe. The first, which describes the force of gravity, is widely known: Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. But the theory that explains everything else--the Standard Model of Elementary Particles--is virtually unknown among the general public.In The Theory of Almost Everything, Robert Oert ...more
Paperback, 327 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Plume Books (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  648 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Roy Lotz
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is really a rare treat. How often can you find a lucid and compelling explanation of perhaps the greatest scientific achievement in history packed into less than 300 pages? Oerter has done a fine thing. In fact, I find it rather remarkable, really, when I reflect that he includes the history of the major discoveries and theoretical advances, as well as surprisingly nuanced discussions of QED, QCD, and Feynman diagrams (among much else), ultimately managing to take the reader from Newto ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand particle physics and isn't already an expert

Casting around for a good way to explain what an excellent book this is, I realize that I can say it very concisely: in an approachable but still quite responsible manner, it tells you everything you need to know about the Standard Model of Particle Physics to be able to understand the equation on the famous CERN T-shirt.

Well, that was my best shot. If you aren't convinced now, you never will be.
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
The Standard Model of Elementary Particles describes everything we know about symmetries, particles and fields. It is backed up by experiment and has made significant predictions that have been validated including most recently the Higgs particle. It is a relativistic quantum field theory meaning that it takes into account special relativity and quantum mechanics. It does not address gravity, dark matter or dark energy.

Presenting the ideas that led to the Standard Model in historical sequence w
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very nice overview of the "Standard Model" of physics, namely the current theory encompassing all the known particles of physics -- electrons, protons, neutrons, positrons, muons, neutrinos, gluons, the hypotheticized Higgs bosons, etc -- plus all the known interactions and forces, save only gravitation. Oerter argues (and I am inclined to agree with him) that the Standard Model is, perhaps, "the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement to date."

Unlike many semi-popular works on scie
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robert Oerter's ambitious book leads the reader conceptually through the modern physics of the Standard Model, from its historical antecedents in Newton and Maxwell to the current state of knowledge. As expected in any brief account of this nature, depending upon the background the reader brings to this book, he or she might find some areas provide enough information, while other areas leave the reader wanting more detail. For me, the sections up through and including quantum electrodynamics (QE ...more
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Good for what it is. I read so many of these general audience science texts, I wish there was a third category, somewhere between "I've never heard of relativity" and "Yes, I do have a PhD in physics."
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-medicine
There are dozens of books out there about dark holes, string theory, chaos theory and what have you. But it's hard to find a book about the Standard Model, even though it is probably the most comprehensive theory at the universe available right now. This book takes the reader from the beginning of Einstein's thinking about spacetime through the 20th century up to the experiments that were ongoing at the time the book was written (2006). That means, for instance, that the Higgs boson was not yet ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Score: 3.5/5

Mixed feelings on this book. I picked it up for obvious reasons---who wouldn't want a casual introduction to the standard model?

Author Robert Oerter tries to write this book in an accessible way, but as you might expect, managing the line between accessibility and rigor in a book on particle physics is tricky, and some parts of the book are better than others.

Early on, when building up some early historical context, Oerter shows you Schrödinger's wave equation ("Just to show you what
Once again, another book that was an amazing read right up to the part about string theory. Though this particular book was twenty years old, which was right around the time of the rebirth of interest in string theory, so I guess I can't really get too upset.

All of that having been said, it was an excellent primer to the intricacies of the Standard Model, which is so often skimmed over in popular science and physics books. Definitely give it a read; just keep in mind that we 1) have official dis
Vicky Chijwani
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Recommended for: people who love abstract things and would like to get up to speed on the latest (well, almost) physics.

Reading this book raises interesting philosophical questions in my mind: is the layman of the future doomed to encounter increasingly dry, mathematical theories about the nature of reality, with the march of science? It certainly seems so. Is reality, at bottom, just math? I sure hope not.

Turns out modern particle physics is just not at all captivating, unlike 20th century phys
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well.. This is a very well written book. I decided begin to read this work of Oerter because I was very much interested in a very unkown (to me) part of the physics. It was a mixed surprise. Mr Oerter is a very lucid man, he write in a very straightforward and clear way. It is assertive and imaginative explaining the not so intuitive results. Writting style aside I must confess that the content was not so pleasant at all. The modern theories are very difficult to prove by recurring to evidence a ...more
Ethan Hulbert
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a little biased since this is one of the books that really propelled my interest in physics back in university, but I love this book and rereading it a decade later was still an absolute pleasure. So much clarity in such a little book.
Greg Meyer
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great book, it really is brilliant. He shows that the standard model is actually a brilliant accomplishment of dial turning. However, it is still flawed, as he even admits himself.
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Pretty good book, my only real complaint being that the first half covers the same material as Gribbin’s “In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat”, which I felt did a better job.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
An Unloved Model of the Universe

Would you name your newborn baby “The Standard Child”? Even the founders of “The Standard Model” not seem to especially love this very successful theory of the fundamental forces of nature. In their words, it was “repulsive” and that “It was such an extraordinarily ad hoc and ugly theory that it was clearly nonsense.” Robert Oerter walks us through the theory to show us its beauty and accomplishments, along with its problems. He does this mainly with words and dia
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a surprisingly clear overview of the state of play regarding the Standard Model at the time the book was written (in the meantime, the Higgs boson was found and I think (super)string theory lost a bit of its wind). There are other popular science books that cover individual aspects of the model better and in greater detail, but Oerter has managed to pack the basics of the whole thing into a single volume. In fact, I’d argue that this is not so much a popular science book in itself – cer ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reasonably well. I hoped this would help me better understand just what exactly the Standard Model is, and it met that need.

Started strong & fun, but things got a bit incomprehensible in the latter chapters, at least for me. I had to do a mode switch from "reading & understanding to an extent" to "reading & trusting what the author was saying made sense". It's more fun to be in the first mode, though it's understandable that the second is necessary, especially given the subj
Rob Roy
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This book is a lucid basic look at modern physics, and the Standard Model specifically. Sure I did not understand it all, I don't have the math, but that should not deter a reader. I have read books in the past on physics, and find them great mental calisthenics. This book, and modern physics in general force you to think in different ways than you normally do. Stretching the mind is a good thing.
Folkert Wierda
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: particle-physics
The book starts somewhat slowly, explaining at a very basic level special and general relativity, and (quantum) wave mechanics, but then gets to the right level in explaining the development and the current state of particle physics. No mathematical expressions (both good and bad), but a basic use of Feynman diagrams, which was exactly what I was looking for. Highly recommended for someone who wants to understand what particle physics is all about.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very clear and easy to understand description of history and beauty of the Standard Model.
Dan Cohen
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it

A good explication of the standard model and particle physics, including a good section on future directions (although this is a little dated as the book was written in 2006).
Dr M
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Physicists, those with an interest in science
Shelves: popular-science
The Theory of Almost Everything is the story of the Standard Model of elementary particle physics. The title is a pun on the expression "Theory of Everything", the theoretical physicist's wet dream of a unified theory of all the fundamental constituents and interactions of matter, and Oerter seeks to explain how the elementary particle physics of the 20th century has almost achieved this, except "only" for questions concerning gravity. Oerter does this very well indeed. In fact, I must say that ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting reading for anyone who wants to know more about the state of modern Physics. A bit outdated (Higgs particles wasn't confirmed at the time of writing), but still it shows a clear picture of how our world is functions. Also, the book provides short introductions into others competing and complementing theories like Strings Theory and Grand Unified Theory.
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I am not an expert on the field, my knowledge about relativity and quantum theory was limited before this book. Thus, when I wanted to get a little more deep into understanding what is happening 'down' there, I started looking for a good book to read. Now, after reading this book, I feel lucky with the choice I've made.

A very easy to read book that takes things from the very beginning and explaining how physicists ended up with what we have now. More over, enough details are given on each step,
Friedrich Mencken
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
This is a very good book that aims to give an overview on the standard model of particle physics. A somewhat charming thing is that Oerter shows concern that the Higgs boson had not yet been discovered which would make or break the theory and since the book was written the Higgs boson particle has indeed been discovered. I would have liked to see more references supporting the books claims, mostly it relies on a few book for the whole chapter but few are specific or are first hand sources. It al ...more
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Oerter takes upon himself a grand task of making the Standard Model more understandable for general public. I think he is successful in this undertaking.

The book is written in a clear language with an avoidance of jargon, which makes it accessible. Even though I was familiar with majority of ideas presented, the amount of information contained in this book, particularly regarding particle decays, is sometimes overwhelming.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in modern physics. There is m
Lee Belbin
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Pretty well written introduction to the quantum view of small things. While I studied this many years ago, this was a good introduction to the weird world of quantum mechanics. I think it could have been a lot more concise however - I reckon the guts of it could have been done in 50%. I liked the historical perspectives the most. If you don't know about the non intuitive (non Newtonian) quirks of very small things (atoms and below), this is a fair place to start. Fact is stranger than fiction he ...more
Chunyang Ding
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book for beginners in modern physics. I read this book at a summer camp for the frontiers of physics, and the book was able to clarify confusing topics we covered in lecture. It is, of course, rather simplistic, and isn't particularly deep in the math or technical details of the standard model. Instead, it gives the reader a taste of what is currently known and how much is left for us to discover!
Bill Jackman
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Someone asked me what the Higgs Boson is, and I didn't know. (Hide head in shame.) The standard model has supposedly been around for 40 years, (After I got out of college. I still had physics professors who had not studied quantum mechanics.) and I don't remember running into it. As is normal I will have to read more, before I will begin to really understand it.
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