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Physics books of 2022

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Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of the Mass, by Frank Close

On the day the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was due to be announced, University of Glasgow theoretical physicist and presumed laureate Peter Higgs stepped down from the grid. Without telling anyone where he was going, Higgs left his apartment and started walking.

This year, for the 10th anniversary of the discovery that cemented the physicist’s reluctant fame, eminent physicist and prolific author Frank Close offers Elusivethe first full biography of Higgs.

Close (also author of theories of everything; The Infinity Puzzle; Antimatter and more) focuses as much on Higgs the particle as it does on Higgs the scientist, and the physics concepts it explores can be daunting. But this excellent book is worth it.

The Sky is for Everyone: Women Astronomers in Their Own Words, edited by Virginia Trimble and David. A Weintraub

After earning a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, Virginia Trimble was determined to enter Caltech’s astronomy program. The catalog warned: “Women are only admitted in exceptional circumstances. She applied anyway. Response: “Dear Miss Trimble, We have reviewed your credentials and conclude that we cannot deny your admission to the California Institute of Technology. We think, however, that you would be happier elsewhere.

Trimble received his Ph.D. in 1968. From Caltech. She returned in 2019 to accept a lifetime achievement award from the American Institute of Physics.

Trimble (author of Visit a small universe) and Vanderbilt astronomer David A. Weintraub (author of how old is the universe; March: what you need to know before you go) share Trimble’s story, along with dozens of others, in this collection of personal essays by female astronomers who earned their PhDs between 1963 and 2010.

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I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe, by Eve M. Vavagiakis, illustrated by Ilze Lemesis

Cosmologist Eve M. Vavagiakis has discovered the rarest of fundamental particles: a talking neutrino. It’s who tells i am a neutrinofor readers ages 7-9, published by MIT Kids Press.

The story is told in simple, rhyming verse, such as “My friends and I are traveling from more than one place. We come from the sun, or from the earth, or from space. The illustrations, by Ilze Lemesis, are whimsical works of art.

Some of the physics terms in the book – mass, charge, oscillations, fermions – may need further explanation. But puzzled parents can turn to the back for thumbnail versions of the pages with fuller treatments of content. A winner for “kids” of all ages.

The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time and Motion, by Sean Carroll

Astrophysicist Sean Carroll is candid about the number of equations and graphs in The greatest ideas in the universe. They are multiple, but they are critical. “We are not going to teach you how to solve the equations,” he writes, “but you will learn to understand them.”

Carroll (also author of something deeply hidden; The big picture; The particle at the end of the universe; From eternity to here) is the Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and a professor in the Santa Fe Institute’s Fractals Faculty.

He acknowledges that “just a bit of thought” is needed to skim through his latest book, but the result is fascinating science that’s more accessible than it looks.

There are places in the world where rules are less important than kindness: and other thoughts on physics, philosophy and the world, by Carlo Rovelli

Follow the theoretician Carlo Rovelli (also author of Seven short lessons in physics; The order of time; Reality is not what it seems; Heligoland) through a new collection of far-reaching philosophical essays in which he unleashes his distinctive spirit. In one, Copernicus fixes the sun at the center of the solar system. In another, Galileo refines and expands the science of Aristotle. Newton indulges in alchemy. And Einstein is ascendant despite a myriad of errors, or perhaps because of them.

One last time, Rovelli enjoys the lyrical translation of married team Erica Segre and Simon Carnell – sadly Segre succumbed to a long illness in 2021, aged just 58.

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This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey to the Edge of Reality, by Michael Dine

Theorist Michael Dine says he couldn’t find a clear and concise survey of the current state of particle physics and cosmology to recommend to his non-physicist friends. So he wrote one himself.

In her first book, Dine takes readers through discoveries and developments at the smallest quantum scale, then focuses on the larger scales of the universe.

Dine, a distinguished professor of physics at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, writes in a conversational style and even occasionally inserts himself into the discussion. Regarding the first indications of oscillations in neutrinos traveling between the sun and the Earth, he writes: “For skeptics like me, that was a lot to swallow.”

Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions, by Sabine Hossenfelder

Theorist Sabine Hossenfelder is known for her provocative take on the state of her own field. In his first book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Misleads Physics, she berated fellow physicists for prioritizing elegant mathematical solutions to empirical data. In her new book, she says physicists are good at talking about their field with fellow scientists but struggle to communicate with a wider audience.

In Existential Physics, Hossenfelder, a researcher at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study in Germany, explores the “bigger questions,” such as: does the past still exist? Is the universe made for us? And how did the universe begin?

Of the latter, she writes: “Not only can we not presently explain [the beginning]but it is equally doubtful that we can ever explain it.

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The Universe: A Biography, by Paul Murdin

The universe: a biography is exactly the authoritative exploration of the history of the universe that you would expect from renowned astronomer Paul Murdin, who, with his colleague Louise Webster in 1971, made the first discovery of a black hole.

Murdin, a senior scholar at Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy, said his aim was to write “a comprehensible history rather than a strictly chronological one”. Its overlapping tales span the possible causes of the Big Bang through the future demise of the universe.

Your Adventures at CERN: Play Hero Among Particles and a Special Dinosaur, by Letizia Diamante, illustrated by Claudia Flandoli

The reader becomes the hero of this children’s book about the CERN Large Hadron Collider and particle physics. The story, punctuated with games and quizzes, suggests choosing between the roles of student, researcher and tourist.

A constantly hungry cat named Schrody (for Schrödinger) serves as guide, and a dinosaur named Jura (for the nearby Jura mountains) lurks nearby. Immerse yourself in a detailed exploration of particles and forces and how the world-renowned research center works.

The Matter of It All: Twelve Experiences That Changed Our World, by Suzie Sheehy

The depth and breadth of research by accelerator physicist and science communicator Suzie Sheehy is evident in The matter of everythingin which she explores over 200 years of advances and discoveries in particle physics.

The book is the first for Sheehy, who conducts research at both the University of Oxford in Britain and the University of Melbourne in Australia. In it, Sheehy unearths critical but often overlooked contributors such as physicist Helen Edwards, who as a young scientist immediately became indispensable in completing “the accelerator cascade” that would become the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy. .

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