## particle physics books |

K Moriyasu

World Press, 1983/2009, 177 pages

I thought this little textbook would be like *Tensors, Relativity,
and Cosmology* (reviewed here)—all
math and no science. But Moriyasu
takes the opposite approach by explaining gauge theory intuitively. The term
‘elementary’ is relative: this is no pop physics book. But
anyone who understands college-level physics, calculus, elementary quantum
mechanics, and tensor notation should have little difficulty.

Moriyasu avoids the difficult math in favor of a semiclassical approach, trying wherever possible to relate it to familiar stuff like Maxwell's equations. He also tells us the history of gauge theory, including the early false steps, and shows why Yang-Mills equations and symmetry breaking are essential in quantum chromodynamics, electroweak interactions, Z and W bosons, superconductivity, and the Higgs field.

Moriyasu, a self-professed ‘non-expert’, has a solid understanding
of the subject and the difficulties that gauge theorists faced. The age of
the book is not an issue either, but if you really want an up-to-date discussion
of gauge theory and electroweak, you're better off with Chris Quigg's *Gauge
Theories of the Strong, Weak, and Electromagnetic Interactions*, a more
difficult and more rigorous book, which gets into the heavy stuff like
Weinberg's renormalizations. The great value of Moriyasu's book is to prevent
you from drowning when you get there.

*jan 10, 2016*

B.R. Martin

Wiley, 2009, 453 pages

By now, we've all heard the corny Higgs boson jokes: “Higgs bosun found in fo'c'sle. Now looking for its antiparticle, the Higgs boson's mate.” “What we need instead is the anti-Higgs. A particle that takes mass away.” “Apple has patent on Higgs boson particle; cease and desist letter sent to CERN.” (That last from someone named Peter-Paul Koch. The one about taking mass away is supposedly from Neil deGrasse Tyson. )

Real thigh-slappers, all right. But what actually is a Higgs boson, and why should it inspire this tremendous outpouring of scintillating wit? To understand that, it's necessary to understand some particle physics. This book, written at an undergraduate physics level, provides the basics of QCD and nuclear physics in a way that makes a clear connection to real physical phenomena (such as beta-decay, nuclear fission, antiparticles, and neutrinos), using lots of Feynman diagrams as well as the usual mathematical quantum mechanics. Unlike more abstract books, the equations are described in such a way as to give readers an insight into their physical implications, which makes the subject accessible to readers outside of physics as well. And yes, there are also a couple pages on the Higgs boson.

Useful appendices include introductions to perturbation theory, relativistic kinematics and gauge theories (all of which I would consider essential reading), as well as tables of particles and stable isotopes (which must also be read in order to fully understand the text). Best of all, there is a large section of answers to problems. The writing style is excellent.

Another book on the subject which looks good (although I haven't read it yet) is
* Nuclear Energy - Landolt-Börnstein: Numerical Data and Functional Relationships
in Science and Technology - New Series / Advanced Materials and Technologies
Group VIII, Vol. 3: Energy Technologies Subvolume B* by Alkan, Barré,
Bock, Campbell, Grätz, Hamacher, Heinloth, Hoffmann,
Hofmann, Hogan, Kröger, Kugeler, Kugeler, Logan, Nagamine, Olson, Paretzke,
and Pöppe. Unfortunately, in addition to having a ridiculously long title,
Springer wants $7,790 for it. I've been saving up one cent a day to buy it, but
there are already 98 sarcastic customer reviews on one website, many of which are
priceless.

*Update, Jan. 25 2017 * I just found out you can buy the entire 12-volume
2015 set for only $41,699.00! Woo-Hoo!

*mar 16, 2013*

Richard N. Boyd

U of Chicago, 2008, 422 pages

Finally, an astrophysics textbook for students who aren't really interested in the subject. At least, that's how this book starts out. The first hundred pages or so are a light review of astronomy and the various ground and space observatories, with lots of nice color pictures.

But, to quote Admiral Ackbar, * it's a trap! * If the reader gets lulled
into complacency, it's too late. Suddenly, the student realizes that there is
some real physics here, with all that that implies. Even though the treatment is
not entirely mathematical, a thorough understanding of nuclear reactions, isospin,
nuclear shell models, and similar topics is expected. For readers not up to date
on these topics, I recommend reading something like * Nuclear and Particle
Physics: an Introduction * (reviewed at left) first.

However, readers who are still alive after reading Chapter 3 will find a wealth
of fascinating information about nuclear chemistry inside stars. For example,
Boyd says [p.201] that the most basic and rate-limiting step in hydrogen burning,
^{1}H + ^{1}H → ^{2}H + e^{+} + ν_{e},
has such a low cross-section that it is difficult to measure in our earthbound
accelerators. Another pp-chain reaction,
^{3}He(^{3}He,^{4}He)2^{1}H, has a Gamow peak
in the Sun of only 24 keV, which is so low that it was impossible to measure
it until 1996. (Boyd does explain what a Gamow peak is, and why this is important.)
By the end of oxygen burning, 90% of the mass in the core of a
star may consist of ^{28}Si and ^{32}S [p.235], as if it were
composed of ‘glass.’ This silicon is then burned to heavier elements
over the course of only a single day.

When a supernova explodes, every atom in the core is reduced to neutrons and
protons. These particles react with each other to form α-particles, and
react with ^{56}Fe or other atoms to generate all the natural elements,
along with transuranics and many other radioactive isotopes, in complex pathways
known as the r- and s-processes [p.345].

You just can't live without knowing this stuff. But take care with this book: so far, there is no online errata list that I could find.

*mar 30, 2013*