Une introduction à L’aventure du grand collisionneur LHC: Du big bang au boson de Higgs
By Daniel Denegri, Claude Guyot, Andreas Hoecker and Lydia Roos
Also available at the CERN bookshop
The authors, leading figures in the CMS and ATLAS experiments, have succeeded in writing a remarkable book, which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone interested in learning about the recent progress, open questions and future perspectives of high-energy physics. Throughout its 300 pages, it offers a broad coverage of the present status of particle physics, adding a few chronological accounts to place things in an historical context.
Despite being published in a collection that targets the general public, the book delves into several topics to a deep level and will be useful reading for many professional physicists. To accommodate different audiences, the authors have organized the book nicely in two “layers”, the standard flow of chapters being complemented by extra boxes giving “further reading”. Still, the reader is often told that some sections might be left aside in a first reading. It seems to me that this is a well-balanced solution for such a book, although I wonder if most readers from the “general public” would agree with the claim that the text is written in a “simple and pedagogical form”. The first chapter, describing the Standard Model, is particularly demanding and long, but these 40 pages should not deter: the rest of the book provides easier reading.
I was impressed particularly by the care with which the authors prepared many figures, which in some cases include details that I have not seen in previous works of this kind – for example, the presence of gluon lines and quark–antiquark loops inside the cartoon representing the pion, besides the standard valence quarks. Such representations are common for the proton, especially when discussing deep-inelastic scattering measurements, but it is rare to point out that any hadron – including the π or the Υ – should equally be characterized by “parton distribution functions”. The profusion of high-quality figures and photographs contributes significantly to making this book well worth reading.
A few things could be improved in a future edition. For instance, the number of footnotes is excessive. While meant as asides not worth including in the main body of the text, they end up disrupting the fluidity of the reading, especially when placed in the middle of a sentence. Most footnotes should be integrated in the text, deleted, or moved to the end of the book, so that the reader can ignore them if preferred. While understanding that this book is addressed to a French audience, I would nevertheless recommend “smoothing out” some French-specific choices. For instance, I was pleased to read that Pierre Fayet, in Paris, had an important role in the development of the MSSM extension to the Standard Model, but I was puzzled to see no other name mentioned in the pages devoted to supersymmetry.
Being one of the “LHC adventurers” myself, I read with particular curiosity the chapters devoted to the construction of the LHC accelerator and experiments, which include many interesting details about sociological aspects. I would have liked this part to have been further expanded, especially knowing by personal experience how fascinating it is to listen to Daniel Denegri, when he tells all sorts of anecdotes about physics and physicists.
All in all, this is a highly recommendable book, which provides an interesting guided tour through present-day high-energy physics while, at the same time, offering opportunities for non-French people to learn some French expressions, such as “se faire coiffer au poteau“. Note, however, that the enjoyable reading comes mixed with harder sections, which require extra effort from the reader: this book, like the LHC data, provides “du pain sur la planche“.
• Carlos Lourenço, CERN.
Modern Particle Physics
By Mark Thomson
Cambridge University Press
Hardback: £40 $75
Also available as an e-book, and at the CERN bookshop
Mark Thomson has written a wonderful new introductory textbook on particle physics. As the title suggests, it is modern and up-to-date. It contains several chapters on the latest developments in neutrino physics, B-meson physics, on the LHC and of course also on the Higgs boson. All the same, as new data pour in, the latter part on the Higgs boson will have to be updated in future editions, of which I expect there to be many.
The book is aimed at students who are already familiar with quantum mechanics and special relativity, but not quantum field theory. Interestingly, although written by an experimentalist, I would say that this book, in level, is most closely comparable to the well-known textbook by Francis Halzen and Alan Martin, both theorists. However, it is an improvement in many ways.
It starts out with an extensive discussion on what can be measured by detectors, as well as the basics of scattering theory, and the Klein–Gordon and Dirac equations. Thomson then guides the reader carefully through pedagogical steps to the computation of matrix elements and cross-sections for scattering processes at fixed-target experiments and colliders. He uses the helicity-eigenstate basis, which helps to make the underlying physics in the reactions more evident. As a theorist, I might have enjoyed an emphasis on two-component fermions, but this might not be so readily digestible for experimentalists.
I found the chapter on flavour SU(3) well written and elucidating. The chapter on neutrino physics discusses the implications of the measurements of θ13 nicely, and presents the MINOS and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory experiments and their relevance to the determination of the neutrino parameters. Regarding neutrino oscillations, Thomson points out rightly the necessity of the wave-packet treatment, but unfortunately gives no reference to a more detailed discussion, such as the paper by Boris Kayser. The gauge principle and spontaneous symmetry breaking are explained in great detail. The emphasis throughout is always on explicit and concrete computations.
The book is well written – it is easy to read, with clear pedagogical lines of reasoning, and the layout is pleasing. There are numerous homework problems at the end of each chapter. My only criticism would be that since Thomson is an experimentalist, I expected a modern version of Don Perkins’ book, with many details on experimental techniques – that is, a different book. However, as I am teaching an introduction to theory this autumn, I will definitely be using this book.
• Herbert Dreiner, University of Bonn.
Differential Manifolds: A Basic Approach for Experimental Physicists
By Paul Baillon
Also available at the CERN bookshop
The theory of differential manifolds is a common substratum of much of our current theoretical descriptions of physical phenomena. It has proved to be well adapted to many branches of classical physics –mechanics, electromagnetism, gravitation – for which it has provided a framework for a precise formulation of fundamental laws. Its use in quantum physics has led to spectacular discoveries associated with the unification of electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions. In this connection, manifolds appear not only in the description of the substratum of these phenomena but also in the description of the phenomena themselves, in terms of the so-called gauge theories.
This mathematical theory constitutes an important body of contemporary mathematics. Baillon’s book, which aims at making the subject accessible to a readership that is rich in a completely different culture, adopts an unconventional expository style. Instead of appealing to intuition based on mathematically non-rigorous images and analogies – a common practice – it insists on providing complete proofs of most of the elementary mathematical facts on which the theory is grounded.
A substantial part of the book is devoted to a detailed description of the necessary mathematical equipment. Applications culminate in an introduction to some delicacies of the electroweak theory, as well as of general relativity.
• Raymond Stora, CNRS.
The Physics of Quantum Mechanics
By James Binney and David Skinner
Oxford University Press
Also available as an e-book
The aim of this book is to give students a good understanding of how quantum mechanics describes the material world. It shows that the theory follows naturally from the use of probability amplitudes to derive probabilities. It emphasizes that stationary states are unphysical mathematical abstractions that enable solution of the theory’s governing equation – the time-dependent Schrödinger equation. Every opportunity is taken to illustrate the emergence of the familiar classical, dynamical world through the quantum interference of stationary states.
Introduction to Modern Physics: Solutions to Problems
By Paolo Amore and John Dirk Walecka
John Dirk Walecka’s Introduction to Modern Physics: Theoretical Foundations, published in 2009 (CERN Courier January/February 2010 p45) aimed at covering a range of topics in modern physics in sufficient depth that things would “make sense” to students, so that they could achieve an elementary working knowledge of the subjects. To this end, the book contained more than 175 problems. Now, Introduction to Modern Physics: Theoretical Foundations provides solutions to these problems.
An Introduction to Birth, Evolution and Death of Stars
By James Lequeux, translated from the original Naissance, évolution et mort des étoiles, published by EDP Sciences
How stars form from interstellar matter, how they evolve and die, was understood only relatively recently. All of these aspects are covered in this book by Lequeux, who directed the Marseilles observatory from 1983 to 1988 and served for 15 years as chief editor of the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The text is accompanied by many images, while the theory is explained as simply as possible, but without avoiding mathematical or physical developments when they are necessary for a good understanding of what happens in stars.
Boundary Conformal Field Theory and the Worldsheet Approach to D-Branes
By Andreas Recknagel and Volker Schomerus
Cambridge University Press
Hardback: £65 $99
Also available as an e-book
Boundary conformal field theory is concerned with a class of 2D quantum field theories, which display a rich mathematical structure and have many applications, ranging from string theory to condensed-matter physics. This comprehensive introduction to the topic reaches from theoretical foundations to recent developments, with an emphasis on the algebraic treatment of string backgrounds.