Best books about the LHC's physics?
November 2, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

What are currently the best books about Large Hadron Collider physics for someone with a reasonable background in physics (eg an undergraduate degree), rather than the purely lay reader? I already plan on getting the pop-up book for the fun of it and I'm not interested in conspiracy theories about it gobbling up the universe. The limits of current knowledge and how the experiments will add to this are what I'm interested in, so the best of the latest books that provide the relevant context are also welcome. Thanks!
posted by dowcrag to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's a pop-up book? Care to share a link?
posted by notsnot at 1:02 PM on November 2, 2010

Not Even Wrong is about string theory (and theoretical physics and particle physics more generally) rather than the LHC, but it does discuss the experiments at CERN (along with Tevatron) in that context. It's nominally popular science, but its rather too technical for the average reader in my opinion. It's great. Woit has an agenda (which you're going to get in any moderately technical book about stuff we don't know the answer too), but his is not too far outside the mainstream of 21st century particle physics. Here's some reviews.

Notsnot: Google "pop-up cern". It's the first result.
posted by caek at 2:04 PM on November 2, 2010

Though it's not framed around the LHC in particular, I found Frank Wilczek's The Lightness of Being to be a very good survey of contemporary particle physics.
posted by otio at 2:13 PM on November 2, 2010

Oh hi, I'm a graduate student working on an LHC experiment. You're at a tough point in your education for learning about this stuff - the books people are mentioning above are good books, but are definitely targeting for laypeople, while any journal articles need a few years a graduate study to understand (2 years in myself, and most of it still flies over my head).

If you're especially interested in the physics that the LHC is going to be exploring (ie, cutting edge particle physics), I'd recommend you pick up a introductory graduate textbook. The standard, in my opinion, is Griffiths' Intro to Particles. This book is very accessible to anyone who's taken undergrad QM. Even if you don't want to do the exercises, you'd get a lot out of just reading through it. The last few chapters cover cool new stuff, and he just released a new edition a couple years ago so it's up to date. See if it's in your library and check it out.

If you're also interested in the technical side of the detector, that's a bit more complicated. Perkins' Intro to High Energy Physics is a good text on how modern particle physics is done, but it would be a bit of a slog to go through outside of a lecture course. The ATLAS experiment is one of the two main experiments at the LHC, and they have a pretty good website that has lots of info on how the detector works, which might be a good start.

I have to run right now, but I'll try to think of some more ideas. Definitely try to get your hands on Griffiths as a starter. Feel free to MeMail me any followups or any specific questions you have.
posted by auto-correct at 6:07 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oops, bad link to the atlas website. Try this.
posted by auto-correct at 6:11 PM on November 2, 2010

Thanks everyone, auto-correct especially. These are for stocking-fillers from my wife for Christmas, so I suspect I'll need to stay relatively sober that afternoon if I'm going to start one of them. Although I read 'A brief history of time' as a very drunk 18 year-old and it didn't seem to do any harm. And the next day I bumped into Stephen Hawking in the street!
posted by dowcrag at 2:33 AM on November 3, 2010

Ok, I was kind of gearing that answer towards if you were trying to educate yourself to get a working knowledge of the field. I stand by the Griffiths' text as a great introductory book if you're interested in learning how to do particle physics.

Some other books I've enjoyed that are less technical are Brian Greene's books which deal with String Theory, and The Trouble With Physics by Lee Smolin, which covers the alternatives to String Theory (which often get ignored by popular writers).

Feynman's book on QED isn't at all cutting edge physics anymore, but it's a great introduction to field theory which is still the paradigm people are working under.
posted by auto-correct at 9:31 AM on November 3, 2010

Auto-correct, I'd rank QED as one of the best books I've ever read, and I'm re-reading The Fabric of the Cosmos at the moment, so we're clearly thinking along similar lines. When I say stocking filler, I still want it filled with something suitably challenging so I'll be getting (her to get) the Griffiths book. I'll take a look at Smolin. Thanks!
posted by dowcrag at 1:45 AM on November 4, 2010

« Older Carol never wore her safety goggles...   |   Science of crowd noise? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.