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The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of… (2006)

by Robert Oerter

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260589,435 (4.13)2
There are two scientific theories which, taken together, explain the entire universe. The first, which describes the force of gravity, is widely known: Einstein's Theory of Relativity. But the theory that explains everything else - the Standard Model of Elementary Particles - is virtually unknown among the general public. Here, Oerter shows how what were once thought to be separate forces of nature were combined into a single theory by some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Rich and accessible prose makes this a truly readable book.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Recommended in a review of "The Theoretical Minimum." ( )
  clifforddham | Sep 17, 2015 |
Although not a physicist (a neuroscientist instead), I've read quite a few popular science physics books in my time, with Brian Greene one of my favourite authors (Simon Singh is close behind), but although this book isn't long, I felt it took me far further into the meat of modern physics than any of them, and that by the end I really had a much deeper grasp of the Standard Model. For this reason alone, I'm a big fan of the book.

Its style is at times rather personal and irreverent, which I always love in a popular science book - why hide your own personality behind ideas? Let it out and use it as a hook to further engage the reader. Oerter at times shies away from taking a historical view of the subject, but breaks this rule frequently when it will help explain the science, or even just add some context to it. I was very happy for this somewhat flexible approach as well.

Much of the science is explained clearly, with little or no mathematics, but my only gripe with the book was that there were some ideas that were just too obscure and difficult to follow. This is more true of the latter part of the book than the former. I was left wondering if there is any hope for a layperson to grasp these ideas without the maths, or if Oerter could have made these concepts clearer.

Still, despite the odd somewhat impenetrable passage, I think this is a wonderful book for expanding one's knowledge about modern physics. And it's made me feel confident enough now to search for deeper explanations, either in popular science books with more maths, or physics text books.

(Any recommendations for the next stage would be greatly received!) ( )
  RachDan | May 23, 2014 |
Minireview: A slim and somewhat sketchy popular introduction to the Standard Model of elementary particle physics. While Oerter emphasizes that this is not a history, logical development often leads him to follow a roughly historical route, making the book suffer in comparison to Crease and Mann's excellent history, The Second Creation. This work also seems to be pitched at a somewhat lower level than Crease and Mann, though it does address some issues they gloss over (and vice versa). The strangest omission I noticed was the lack of mention of the electroweak hierarchy problem (the cosmological hierarchy problem is brought up briefly). While primarily an aesthetic 'problem', this is one of the main motivations for developing theories beyond the Standard Model. This leads to supersymmetry being introduced just "because-it's-there" (260), then justified through the possibility of coupling constant unification in supersymmetric grand unified theories. ( )
  daschaich | Jun 14, 2008 |
Quite simply and readably written.
  fpagan | Oct 14, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Introduction: People are always asking for the latest developments in the unification of this theory with that theory, and they don't give us a chance to tell them anything about one of the theories that we know pretty well... What I'd like to talk about is a part of physics that is known, rather than a part that is unknown.

— Richard Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
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In Memory of George William Oerter
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Introduction: There is a theory in physics that explains, at the deepest level, nearly all of the phenomena that rule our daily lives.
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There are two scientific theories which, taken together, explain the entire universe. The first, which describes the force of gravity, is widely known: Einstein's Theory of Relativity. But the theory that explains everything else - the Standard Model of Elementary Particles - is virtually unknown among the general public. Here, Oerter shows how what were once thought to be separate forces of nature were combined into a single theory by some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Rich and accessible prose makes this a truly readable book.

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Esiste una teoria fisica, formulata nel XX secolo, in grado di spiegare la struttura fondamentale della materia e dell'energia, le forze elettriche e magnetiche, le forze nucleari che tengono insieme le particelle e le particelle stesse, ma anche il comportamento della luce, le reazioni che alimentano il Sole e addirittura i primi istanti di vita dell'universo. Questa teoria si chiama Modello Standard delle particelle elementari, e Robert Oerterne offre in questo libro la prima attenta e lucida panoramica. Senza tralasciare, peraltro, la stringente attualità che circonda gli studi condotti dagli scienziati. Nel 2007 entrerà infatti in funzione il Large Hadron Collider del CERN, il più potente acceleratore di particelle al mondo,un anello lungo 27 chilometri che permetterà di rispondere a molti interrogativi: primo fra tutti, esiste veramente il bosone di Higgs, la particella la cui esistenza è prevista dal Modello Standard, responsabile del fatto che nell'universo esista una proprietà fisica nota come massa? "La teoria del quasi tutto" è una lettura fondamentale per chi voglia capire cosa la fisica moderna ci dice e non ci dice sulla natura dell'universo.
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