Deep Down Things: The Breathtaking Beauty of Particle Physics

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JHU Press, Oct 20, 2004 - Science - 392 pages
3 Reviews

A useful scientific theory, claimed Einstein, must be explicable to any intelligent person. In Deep Down Things, experimental particle physicist Bruce Schumm has taken this dictum to heart, providing in clear, straightforward prose an elucidation of the Standard Model of particle physics -- a theory that stands as one of the crowning achievements of twentieth-century science. In this one-of-a-kind book, the work of many of the past century's most notable physicists, including Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, Feynman, Gell-Mann, and Weinberg, is knit together in a thorough and accessible exposition of the revolutionary notions that underlie our current view of the fundamental nature of the physical world. Schumm, who has spent much of his life emmersed in the subatomic world, goes far beyond a mere presentation of the "building blocks" of matter, bringing to life the remarkable connection between the ivory tower world of the abstract mathematician and the day-to-day, life-enabling properties of the natural world. Schumm leaves us with an insight into the profound open questions of particle physics, setting the stage for understanding the progress the field is poised to make over the next decade or two.

Introducing readers to the world of particle physics, Deep Down Things opens new realms within which are many clues to unraveling the mysteries of the universe.


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User Review  - RebekahCavan - LibraryThing

Believe it or not, this was my "beach read" for the summer. Lying on the dock reading this and watching the ocean waves, I was able to visualize the concepts of particle physics thanks to this book. Read full review

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I had the opportunity to read this book as a longstanding draft before it went into publication (then titled "Patterns and Paradigms"). Shortly afterwards, I opened what turned out to be enjoyable correspondence with the author. He surprised me with the news that this book was recently released and ready for purchase through the publishers. I since then bought the published edition and this review represents an analysis of the released hardback. The fact that the author took more than four years to write and polish this fine book for the general public shows in its tight, cogent and succinct style and content.
Deep Down Things (the Breathtaking Beauty of Particle Physics) gets its title from a beautiful verse in Gerard Manley Hopkins fitting poem God's Grandeur "And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things"
In the Preface the author explains that the title is meant to convey that "Deep down within the atomic nucleus, deeply within the paradoxical richness of empty space, deep inside the synapses of the great scientific thinkers of the 20th century - this is the territory of particle physics." This book peals back the layers of the atomic and sub-atomic world like an onion ready for investigation. Just for fun, look for the rest of the poem on the Internet.
Schumm says in the Introduction that his book "...represents my attempts to elucidate the currently accepted theory of particle physics...for the interested public." He goes on to say that it's not "...a story about the history of particle physics or of the lives of its protagonists. Nor is it a book of anecdotes about the culture and society..."
Deep Down is categorically non-mathematical and in the spirit of the "popular" vein but with an unusual twist. This is not a superficial pop-science "gee-wiz" book. At the risk of losing some less than serious lay readers, Schumm has wisely sprinkled some important formulas throughout the book and he effectively shows why they are significant. You don't have to be able to see or do the "proofs" in the equations, just the important concepts behind them. Chapter 1 serves as the Introduction and Chapter 2 is a quick account of the four fundamental forces of Nature as by described by the Standard Model. Chapter 3 covers Planck's constant and the revolutionary discovery of quantization, Einstein's Relativity, Wave-Particle Duality (ala de Broglie's matter waves), Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle, and finally Schrodinger's time-independent equation are all brought to light. The book has many diagrams to graphically illustrate various concepts and also a nice Notes section to elaborate on technical details. Chapter 4 "The marriage of Relativity & Quantum Theory" (one of my favorite chapters) is all about Relativistic QFT, Feynman diagrams of fundamental interactions, bosons, antimatter, spin, the virtually active vacuum (Casimir's effect) and ends with a nice treatment of QED. Chapter 5 is about the fundamental building blocks known as the Standard Model: Quarks, Leptons, Bosons, and Fermions & the "particle zoo".
The remaining half of the book (chapters 6 though 10) is my favorite. Here Schumm takes me where I've always wanted to go - right into the heart & depth of the symmetries & abstractions that have only been hinted at in other books. Here, Schumm offers a serious & stimulating challenge for this physics lay-enthusiast. I'm happily compelled to re-read major sections of the book that are indeed deep & abstract - trying to get my mind wrapped around the concepts of SU(2) & SU(3) Lie Algebras, hypercharge, and internal symmetry spaces in gauge theories. I've seen this stuff before in many other popular books but they're usually dumbed down too far with vague or loose analogies (I can't help but feel like some authors are being forced to be less than forthcoming). Some of us don



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About the author (2004)

Bruce A. Schumm is a professor of physics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

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