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From the Great Wall to the Great Collider

Steve Nadis and Shing-Tung Yau
Publisher: 
International Press
Publication Date: 
2015
Number of Pages: 
214
Format: 
Hardcover
Price: 
29.50
ISBN: 
9781571463104
Category: 
General
[Reviewed by
P. N. Ruane
, on
02/12/2016
]

The writing of this book was inspired by the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, which is said to ‘put the finishing touches’ to the standard model of particle physics. As the authors explain, an ambitious new machine (China’s Great Collider) could provide fuller understanding of the origins of the universe and its most basic constituents. In relation to this project, the Centre for Future High Energy Physics was inaugurated in Beijing as recently as December 2013.

Throughout the book, there is reference to the history and cultural importance of Great Wall of China, which thereby serves as a metaphor for the giant accelerator that will be 100km in circumference. This machine is expected to ‘transport physics into a previously inaccessible, high-energy realm where a host of new particles, and perhaps a sweeping symmetry, might be found’. But the authors mainly provide an historical outline of the development of particle physics, whilst simultaneously portraying the salient features of contemporary research.

Nadis and Yau make a scientific and societal case for the building of a collider that could provide fuller understanding of the origins of the universe and its basic constituents. They argue that, although the standard model can account for the behaviour of particles, it sheds little light on the big bang, gravity and dark matter etc. Consequently, this is really a book about particle physics, with only slight reference to mathematical ideas. Indeed, the index lists over 60 sub-atomic particles, with verbal reference to only a few mathematical concepts (Maxwell’s equations, Einstein equations). Nonetheless, the book may be regarded as being complementary to the authors’ highly mathematical exposition on string theory, provided in their book The Shape of Inner Space.


Peter Ruane is retired from the field of mathematics education, which involved the training of primary and secondary school teachers. His postgraduate study included of algebraic topology and differential geometry, with applications to superconductivity.

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