Monday, August 10, 2009

The Universe, A Biography

The Universe, A Biography by John Gribbin (Penguin Books, 2006 is an exciting read. Quantum physics just continues to advance. That's where this book starts and frankly I felt like I was very much behind. To quote Gribbin now, "The standard model describes the familial physical world in terms of just four particles (kinds of particles) and four interactions. The four particles are the electron and neutrino (collectively known as leptons) and up and down quarks. The four interactions are gravity, electromagnetism and weak and strong nuclear interactions." That should be enough but there's also fermions, gluons, charm and strange and tau, and best of all the Higg's field. In 2007 at CERN a Large Hadron Collider was to begin operating and if the Standard Model was indeed correct the LHC was supposed to manufacture Higgs particles. The 'Predictability" of a model is what confirms it's veracity. It's all very complex and in detail 'stuff' but John Gribbin really does make it all very understandable at the time of reading. A day later I've got it all mixed up again but when I go back and look at it thanks to Gribbin's it does make sense. His language is very elucidating as he describes "massless particles moving through the Higgs Field (a previously unsuspected 'new' field filling the universe, which interacts with particles to give them mass) encounter a 'drag' which seems to give them mass." So the latest hypothesis of the Standard Model is that there are four basic particles, in two pairs (electron and proton, up and down quarks) which are repeated for reasons unknown in two generatins. It also incorporates just three interactions (gravity, electroweak interaction and strong interaction) plus the Higg's Field. Which of course brings us to GUT - grand unified theory and bosons. This is compounded by Supersymmetry and of course SUZY. Again it makes sense when you read Gribbin, and he should be read, but thank God I did my physics a quarter century ago when Newton and Einstein were still the rage. Today's physics really is the Matrix meets Godzilla inside the Star Trek hologram.

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