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In Search of the Ultimate Building Blocks [Paperback]

Gerard 't Hooft
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 28 1996 0521578833 978-0521578837
From 1960 until 1990 theoretical physicists and experimentalists worked together to probe deeper and deeper into the basic structure of matter, moving closer to an understanding of the ultimate building blocks of the universe. Gerard 't Hooft was closely involved in many of the advances in modern theoretical physics that led to improved understanding of elementary particles, and this is a first-hand account of one of the most creative and exciting periods of discovery in the history of physics. Using language a layperson can understand, this narrative touches on many central topics and ideas, such as quarks and quantum physics; supergravity, superstrings and superconductivity; the Standard Model and grand unification; eleven-dimensional space time and black holes. This fascinating personal account of the past thirty years in one of the most dramatic areas in twentieth-century physics will be of interest to professional physicists and physics students, as well as the educated general reader with an interest in one of the most exciting scientific detective stories ever.

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"I like this book: it is bold and strong; Professor 't Hooft has been a leader in the world of theoretical physics, and the knowledge and opinions he transmits are testaments of that. This book is great for students of physics and for well-seasoned researchers looking for a bigger picture....I applaud Professor 't Hooft for his willingness to write this provocative book." American Scientist

"The story is told with a confidence that comes only from deep the reader a sense of the exemplary, century-long cooperative effort that created the modern science of particle is easily accessible to the nonphysicist." New Scientist

"It gives a remarkable account of the interior dialogue of particle theory." Physics Today

"I recommend this book to professionals and some members of the general audience that have an interest in the concept of elementary particles as seen by the eyes of this author." Otto M. Friedrich, Jr., Science Books & Films

"Gerard t'Hooft has made outstanding contributions in theoretical particle physics, and if this attempt to explain his subject to a lay audience is a guide, he could become an excellent populariser, too....With analogies and anecdotes, t'Hooft skillfully enters the world of particles....the reader is now invited to enjoy t'Hooft's first-hand account of the great revolution in gauge theories in which he played such a singular role, culminating in his personal thoughts on string theory, black holes, and more." Frank Close

"...provides a lucid explanation of the motivations behind these theories and of their advantages and disadvantages, along with speculations about the possible form of a true theory of everything." Robert H. March, Physics Today

Book Description

From 1960 until 1990 theoretical physicists and experimentalists worked together to probe deeper and deeper into the basic structure of matter. The author's involvement in the era enhances his account of one of the most exciting periods in the history of physics.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Let us begin our journey to the world of the tiny by beginning with what we can see with the naked eye, and with those laws of physics that we are all accustomed to. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Gerard t'Hooft is a surprisingly rare example of a rational physicist who is not-so-willing to support all those main-stream paradoxical and irrational claims which often saturate works of some celebrated theoretical physicists. Consequently, Dr. t'Hooft is not so popular among the fashionable camp of string mystics, but rather remains an idependently thinking theorist of Einstein's or Jaynes' scientific ethics.
In my opinion, Dr. 't Hooft wrote a very honest, competent, sincere, and yet highly readable book. In comparison with those popular but misleading books in the style of "The Elegant Universe" (B. Greene) or "The First Three Minutes" (S. Weinberg), this book is a much better example of a fair popularizing book on fundamental particle physics and its recent history, from a perspective of a personal scientific advanture.
Dr. 't Hooft is evidently well aware about some fundamental intrinsic difficulties in modern theoretical physics, which many other physicists either ignore, or simply cannot recognize. Just one typical quote from t'Hooft's book which many quantum, statistical and string physicists should read as a mantra every morning:
"Probabilities and statistics are mistreated a great deal, even by physicists." (p. 14)
Yes, here is the root of many "paradoxes" of modern physics. As a theoretical physicist (and independently from my personal preferences), I think that Gerard 't Hooft is right also on many other sensitive issues of modern physics and that he wrote a very honest popularizing book. This book is fair to a layman and interesting even to an advanced physicist. (As a rare exception to this rule, I cannot fully support his section on Planck's radiation law (p. 9) where I found some common physical misperceptions and some traces of a historical myth.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and well balanced. May 2 2001
Gerard 't Hooft is one of the best and most thoughtful physicists in the world; there are many who think he should have received the Nobel Prize long before he finally did (in 1999). This short book is a marvel. It can be read with almost no prior knowledge of mathematics or physics, and it gives an extremely clear and well-balanced view of the well-established state of knowledge in particle physics and field theory as of 1997; little has changed in the intervening four years.
't Hooft has his own prejudices and enthusiams, but in this book he tried scrupulously to stick with the mainstream concensus in the first 21 of 28 chapters. In the last seven chapters, he describes some of the current and more speculative work being done by various people all over the world who are attempting to create a "Grand Theory of Everything". This discussion is cautious and somewhat skeptical, as I believe it should be, but the underlying ideas of the various approaches are clearly described.
I consider 't Hooft to be one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, and I consider this to be one of the half-dozen best books for laymen on any aspect of modern physics that I have come across. I believe that's because 't Hooft himself thinks so clearly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting inside story of particle physics March 24 2000
This book is not for the timid or casual reader, but more intrepid readers who are familiar with some of the aspects of quantum mechanics will find it an interesting and personalised synopsis of the field from approximately 1970 to the present - a period co-inciding with the author's career to date. Quantum mechanics is certainly one of the most significant theory's of the 20th century and the period covered in this book is of particular interest because of the large number of new particles discovered during this time. But this is not a physics textbook - 't Hooft includes many personal insights and conversations with other important figures in the field - giving the reader a rare inside look into the process and motivations behind the breakthroughs. The book has a conversational tone and there are no complicated mathematics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinated by cosmology. March 9 2004
It included a Eureka moment for me, t' Hooft sets the elementary particles into a sensible context in his smart particle tables, it was one of those "I get it" moments, in which strange quarks (and the rest) just made sense.
The text is lucid and includes light touches of humor, mainly at the expense of the TOE "theories", this is a real physicist, which gently advices "reality checks" to those who will forget that physics is about the world we experience, with experimental verification high on the priority list.
Not many of us (me included) had the pleasure of a Physics Nobel laureate explaining his field of expertise to us in a personal way, this book is the closest most of us can get to that.
My only negative comment is that it should have been a longer book, including more subjects and more of 't Hooft's insights.
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