23 February 2015

• Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics (2nd edition) • Books received

Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics (2nd edition)
By Alessandro Bettini
Cambridge University Press
Hardback: £40 $75
Also available as an e-book, and at the CERN bookshop

The second edition of Alessandro Bettini’s Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics appeared on my doorstep just in time for me to plan my next teaching of the class for beginning graduate students. I liked the first edition very much, and used it for my classes (CERN Courier May 2009 p43). I like the second edition even better.

First, the level is not overburdened with mathematics, while still introducing enough theory to make meaningful homework assignments. Inspection of the 10 chapter titles – beginning with “Preliminary Notions” of kinematics and the passage of radiation through matter, and ending with the mixing and oscillation of “Neutrinos” – shows that it is clearly written by a knowledgeable experimentalist. The organization illustrates the critical interplay between experiment and theory, but leaves the reader with no doubts that physics is an experimental science.

In the first version, I already liked the presentation of the core material such as the quantum numbers of the pion and their measurement, as well as the more sophisticated presentation of material such as the Lamb shift and the resulting development of quantum electrodynamics. Fortunately, the best of this material has also propagated into the second edition, not always the case even in famous physics texts such as those by Jackson and by Halliday and Resnick, where at least to me, the first editions are better than what followed.

Bettini weaves in a good amount of history of the pivotal discoveries that shaped the Standard Model. Beginning students were not even born when the LHC was designed, and their parents were toddlers when the W and Z bosons were discovered. I was on a bus tour at a recent physics meeting in Europe, when a young postdoc asked me what I had worked on in the past. When I told him UA1, he asked “What’s that?” I was speechless, as were the more senior colleagues around us who overheard our conversation. Bettini gives a must-read, whole and balanced introduction to particle physics, appropriate for a first course.

A companion website from Cambridge University Press has some nice slides of plots and figures. I generally do not like to lecture from my laptop, but sometimes data are essential to the presentation, so this is a real time saver. There is also a new solutions manual for all of the end-of-chapter problems – available only to instructors. I like many of these problems, and will use a mix of them together with my own. Best of all, for the current version, there are some timely additions, most notably the discovery of the Higgs boson and an expanded chapter on neutrino oscillations. I will need to supplement this material with the latest measurements, but I am happy to do that because it reminds me that although progress at the frontier of knowledge is painfully slow, it is not zero. Let us hope that Run 2 at the LHC will necessitate the writing of a third edition of this wonderful book.

• James W Rohlf, Boston University.

Books received

Nobel Lectures in Physics (2006–2010)
By Lars Brink (ed.)
World Scientific
Hardback: £51
Paperback: £22
E-book: £17

This volume is a collection of lectures delivered by the Nobel prizewinners in physics, together with their biographies and the presentation speeches by Nobel Committee members, for the years 2006–2010. The lectures provide detailed explanations of the phenomena for which the laureates were awarded the Nobel prize. The volume includes John Mather and George Smoot, honoured “for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation”, as well as Yoichiro Nambu “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics”, and Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry, which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature”.

Physics of Long-Range Interacting Systems
By A Campa, T Dauxois, D Fanelli and S Ruffo
Oxford University Press
Hardback: £55 $94.95
Also available as an e-book

This book deals with an important class of many-body systems: those where the interaction potential decays slowly for large inter-particle distances and, in particular, systems where the decay is slower than the inverse inter-particle distance raised to the dimension of the embedding space. Gravitational and Coulomb interactions are the most prominent examples, although long-range interactions are more common than thought previously. Intended for Master’s and PhD students, the book tries to acquaint the reader with the subject gradually. The first two parts describe the theoretical and computational instruments needed to study both equilibrium and dynamical properties of systems subject to long-range forces. The third part is devoted to applications to the most relevant examples of long-range systems.

Dark Energy
By Miao Li, Xiao-Dong Li, Shuang Wang and Yi Wang
World Scientific
Hardback: £56
E-book: £42

The first volume in the Peking University–World Scientific Advance Physics Series, this book introduces the current state of research on dark energy. The first part deals with preliminary knowledge, including general relativity, modern cosmology, etc. The second part reviews major theoretical ideas and models of dark energy, and the third part reviews some observational and numerical work. It will be useful for graduate students and researchers who are interested in dark energy.

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