A Book Full of Particles

By Sean Carroll | November 13, 2012 7:14 am

Publication day! In case it’s slipped your mind, today is the day when The Particle at the End of the Universe officially goes on sale. Books get a bit of a boost if they climb up the Amazon rankings on the first day, so if you are so inclined, today would be the day to click that button. Also: great holiday present for the whole family!

A very nice review by Michael Brooks appeared in New Scientist. (It’s always good to read a review when you can tell the author actually read the book.) Another good one by John Butterworth appeared in Nature, but behind a paywall.

Brief reminder of fun upcoming events:

  • Today (Tuesday the 13th), you can Ask Me Anything over at Reddit, starting at 2pm Eastern, 11am Pacific. Of course you lovely blog readers already know everything worth knowing, but I’m looking forward to dodging personal queries from people around the world. (And hopefully explaining a little physics.)
  • Thursday I’ll be doing an online chat in a platform called Shindig. That’s 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific. Fire up your webcam and you can be part of the virtual audience.

FAQ: Yes, you should have no trouble reading and understanding it, no matter what your physics background may be. Yes, there are electronic editions of various forms. Yes, there will also be an audio book, but it’s still being recorded. No, nobody has yet purchased the movie rights; call me. Yes, I know that the Higgs boson is not literally sitting there at the end of the universe. It’s a metaphor; for more explanation, read the book!

Writing this book has been quite an experience. Unlike From Eternity to Here, in this case I wasn’t writing about my own research interests. So for much of the time I was acting like a journalist, talking to the people who really built the Large Hadron Collider and do the experiments there. It’s no exaggeration that I went into the project with an enormous amount of respect for what they accomplished, and came out with enormously more than that. It’s a truly amazing achievement on the part of thousands of dedicated people who are largely anonymous to the outside world. (But for the rest of their lives they get to say “I helped discover the Higgs boson,” which is pretty cool.)

Of course, being who I am, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to try to explain some physics that doesn’t often get explained. So once you hit the halfway point in the book or so, we start digging into what quantum field theory really is, why symmetry breaking is important, and the fascinating history of how the Higgs mechanism was developed. (I had to restrain myself from going even deeper, especially into issues of spin and chirality, but this is supposed to be a bodice-ripper, not a brain-flattener.) At the end of the book, as a reward, you get to contemplate the role of the internet and bloggers in the changing landscape of scientific communication, as well as all the fun technological breakthroughs that we will get as a result of the Higgs discovery. (I.e., none whatsoever.)

Hope you like reading it as much as I liked writing it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Higgs, Personal, Science, Top Posts
  • NewEnglandBob

    Bought the Kindle version.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean Carroll

      That’s what I like to hear.

  • Gizelle Janine
  • Kass

    I’m waiting for the movie.

  • http://thespectrumofriemannium.wordpress.com Riemannium

    Congratulations, Sean! Your next step should be the same as Kip Thorne…Maybe a guest invitation to Spielberg’s Interstellar movie? 😉 Best of luck! :)
    PS: It is going to be a hard and laborious winter-autumn for me as well…Changes and work…Coming to my blog soon.

  • David Lau

    I am at work and waiting for the book to be delivered to my room from the office. It will be a book to read thru Thanksgiving break.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    So the book is not written entirely in limericks?

    Ah well. I’ll buy it anyway.

  • David W Miller

    Bought it for my dad! If I am ever at Caltech, I’ll bring it with for a signature 😉

  • Ori Vandewalle

    The Particle at the End of the Universe: The Movie:

    Sean Carroll (Taylor Lautner) is a brilliant young man working as a janitor at the Large Hadron Collider. One night while emptying the trash, he glances at a series of equations on a blackboard and comes to a horrible conclusion: if the LHC is turned on, the universe will end! But the Director General of the LHC, evil German scientist Rolf-Dieter Heuer (Alan Rickman), is bent on claiming the Nobel Prize for the Higgs Boson and will stop at nothing to silence Sean.

    Before Sean can escape and tell the world, however, a freak earthquake (caused by the LHC warming up) traps him and several others underground. Heuer’s henchmen, wielding experimental and highly dangerous hadron guns, hunt Sean through the winding tunnels and catwalks of the LHC. Sean is forced to use his wits and deep knowledge of high-energy particle physics to shut down the experiment gone wrong, save the beautiful grad student (Scarlett Johansson) also trapped with him, and find a way out of the LHC.

    This summer, science collides with destruction!

    Call me?

  • Jen Navolio

    I think Sean should be played by Robert Pattinson not Taylor Lautner.
    P.S Ordering the book now


  • James Gallagher

    Unfortunately Sean’s Reddit appearance coincided with Eric Idle’s, and while Sean’s thread was interesting it couldn’t really compete with this type of exchange from Idle’s thread

    (pleb1): How did you enjoy being shot out of a cannon? [referring to Olympics closing ceremony]
    Eric Idle: It was a stunt man.
    (pleb2): You were shot out of a stunt man?!

    (pleb3): What’s something you enjoy doing that isn’t particularly well known? A hobby or such?
    Eric Idle: Guitar. Reading
    (pleb4): I’ve never read a guitar. It seems like it would be fretful.

  • Chris

    Can’t wait for the sequel “The Particle Beyond the End of the Universe”

  • ampire

    Congrats! Ordered in my local south german bookshop – thanks!

  • Paulino

    Dear Dr. Sean,

    I’m sorry to say that I’ve learned today, from a reader review at Amazon, that you, sir, are a moron, obsessed with money sapping, and “willing to indebt any generation of Americans into becoming slaves”. Alas, in the same review, I’ve learned, much to my chagrin, that a I’m a debt-slave-atheism-theoretical-physics-cultist, who worship delusional morons like you*. Therefore, for that and no other reason, I’m giving myself your book for Christmas, even though I’m at war against it… Christmas, I mean.

    Congrats and success!

    ps-* isn’t the internet wonderful? the things you learn from it and wish you haven’t…

    pps- @9 and @ 10, you are both wrong, Sean Carroll is going to be played by James McAvoy.

  • Ray Gunn

    Found an early Hanukkah/Chanukah gift in the mailbox. Guess this atheist can be a hypocrite for once and accept it. Wonder how the Chanukah Zombie knew I wanted your book?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


See More

Collapse bottom bar