This week on the podcast
I interview Sean Carroll
, theoretical physicist and author of the new book The Paritcle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.
This particle at the end of the universe is none other than the Higgs boson, the particle that gives many elementary particles their mass. I talked with Carroll about why non-scientists should care about the Higgs and what kind of awesome new physics it might introduce us to. Plus, he shares the three most common misconceptions people have about the Higgs boson, and explains why, even though life as we know it would not exist without it, the Higgs is not responsible for most of the mass in your body.
I really like this book. Pick it up if you're interested in learning about the Higgs, or just as a nice introduction to particle physics. While much of the physics you need to know to understand the Higgs boson has been around for many years (and Carroll does an excellent job laying out some of the really messy stuff), the story of the Higgs leading up to its discovery is very much a 21st century tale. It is the first major particle discovery to come under the scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle; more and more particle physicists are starting their own blogs and talking candidly about their work, thus increasing and also diversifying the volume of information available to anyone who's interested.
Carroll embraces the 21st century identity of the Higgs, and his book is not only up-to-date but modern. He references the the Insane Clown Posse (who posed the question: "Magnets: how the *&@# do they work?") and an interview from The Daily Show
with the man who said the LHC might eat the Earth; Carroll explains how the false-alarm internet rumors about the Higgs started and why they never panned out, and then somehow ties in the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. Modern, and ultimately very fun.
You can find more from Sean in his first book, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
, and at the blog Cosmic Variance