The Particle at the End of the Universe

How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World, by Sean Carroll

There seems no end to the titles shoved on the unsuspecting Higgs boson. First it was the “God particle.” Now it’s the “particle at the end of the universe.”

Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech, doesn’t mean this literally; the Higgs is not roaming out there at cosmological distances. It’s at the explanatory end of the universe, the last piece in understanding how the matter that makes up our everyday world works.

Anyone paying attention to science knows by now that particle hunters at the CERN lab, in Switzerland, found the Higgs this summer in debris left behind by crashing protons together. Carroll seizes this moment to explore the scientific significance of the Higgs and what its discovery means from here.

There have been other excellent popular books about the Higgs, but Carroll’s benefits by being able to include the recent discovery. He also serves as a superb armchair guide to the science. One warning: Theory discussions come fast and furious, punctuated by name after name of the eminent scientists who built the foundation for understanding the Higgs. Carroll then moves on to explore more broadly the symmetries of nature and the meaning of humankind’s quest for pure discovery.

All this hard-core science is leavened by Carroll’s chatty, conversational tone. This is surely the only book about the Higgs boson that also references the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse.

By the end, readers may even be inspired to come up with their own nickname for the Higgs.

Dutton, 2012, 352 p., $27.95

Alexandra Witze is a contributing correspondent for Science News. Based in Boulder, Colo., Witze specializes in earth, planetary and astronomical sciences.

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