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The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter

Popular Science
Honorable Mention for the 2008 PROSE Award in Chemistry and Physics, Association of American Publishers

Series: Science Essentials (Princeton UP)

By: Helen R Quinn (Author), Yossi Nir (Author)

312 pages, 12 b/w photos

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Nov 2014 | #215391 | ISBN-13: 9780691163932
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £13.95 $17/€16 approx
Hardback | Jan 2008 | #168791 | ISBN-13: 9780691133096
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NHBS Price: £19.95 $24/€22 approx

About this book

In the first fractions of a second after the big bang lingers a question at the heart of our very existence: why does the universe contain matter but almost no antimatter? The laws of physics tell us that equal amounts of matter and antimatter were produced in the early universe – but then, something odd happened. Matter won out over antimatter; had it not, the universe today would be dark and barren.

But how and when did this occur? Helen Quinn and Yossi Nir guide readers into the very heart of this mystery-and along the way offer an exhilarating grand tour of cutting-edge physics. They explain both the history of antimatter and recent advances in particle physics and cosmology. And they discuss the enormous, high-precision experiments that particle physicists are undertaking to test the laws of physics at their most fundamental levels-and how their results reveal tantalizing new possibilities for solving this puzzle at the heart of the cosmos.

The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter is at once a history of ideas and an exploration of modern science and the frontiers of human knowledge. This exciting, accessible book reveals how the interplay of theory and experimentation advances our understanding and redefines the questions we ask about our universe.

"The big mystery about antimatter, as far as scientists are concerned, is why there isn't more of it in the universe. This is a serious and well-researched exposition of particle physics and cosmology that shows how science came upon antimatter and is now trying to understand the asymmetry between matter and antimatter. A nice feature is the occasional inclusion of personal recollections of the development of the standard model and of the scientists involved, which adds charm to the narrative. [O]ne of the best overviews [...] essential reading for students of physics who want to know what research in theoretical particle physics is doing."
– Frank Close, Times Higher Education

"Quinn and Nir have a daunting task explaining [...] one of the most active areas of theoretical physics today. If you like reading cosmologist Steven Hawking's A Brief History of Time, or particle physicist Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, you will find The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter an absorbing scientific whodunit."
– Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"The standard model of particle physics is Quinn and Nir's arena for discussing one of its inadequacies: it has yet to answer why in the trillionths of a second after the big bang, there was a tiny numerical superiority of matter over antimatter; if there was not, atoms would not have formed. Addressing nonscientists, the authors describe the nature of this intriguing problem [...] [This book] will challenge yet reward readers with understanding of a fascinating subject at the frontier of science."
– Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"[For] anyone wanting to know how physics works and physicists think, the writers have made a difficult topic comprehensible as well as compelling."
– Joe Mielke, ForeWord Magazine

"[A] remarkable book which provides one of the most satisfying tours of particle physics I have ever read."
– Marcus Chown, BBC Focus Magazine

"In this page-turner, true science is written in the thrilling tone of science fiction. Quinn and Nir present the history of the antimatter problem and discuss its impact on our understanding of the cosmos – all without introducing a single equation or even a Greek letter. They reveal tantalizing possibilities for solving this puzzle, made possible by high-precision experiments that particle physicists like Quinn and Nir themselves undertake. For anyone wanting to know how physics works and physicists think, the writers make one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics both comprehensive and compelling."
– Val L. Fitch, Princeton University, Science News

"For those curious about why the universe is the way it is, this book is a reminder of how much we have learned about physics at its smallest and largest scales, but also how much more we have yet to understand."
– Jeff Foust, Space Review

"With the theme of a murder mystery installed in the reader by a silhouette on the cover, this book takes the reader on a tour de force of the case at hand. This book takes the reader on breathtaking foray into the depths of the particle that make-up our body and our worlds. And like an affable Dr. Watson, the reader can journey with [Helen Quinn and Yossi Nir] as they explore this still unsolved case."
Universe Today

"Two distinguished physicists, Quinn and Nir trace in some detail both the history of modern particle physics and its relation to cosmology. Even though the text is free from equations, the authors clearly explain the details of the theories presented and their development. The logic and the meaning of the connections among the ideas make it interesting and challenging?.This is a fine book that belongs in college libraries."
– K. L. Schick, emeritus, Union College (NY), for Choice

"I just had the great pleasure of reading Quinn and Nir's new book, The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter. The book reads like an exciting real-life mystery – and even the appendix offers a fascinating bit of scientific history. It tells a very compelling story in a very accessible manner, and I predict it will get the large and thoughtful readership it deserves."
– Harold T. Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University

"Quinn and Nir bring to light one of the deepest mysteries of science and make a compelling case that its resolution will profoundly impact our understanding of the laws that govern the universe."
– Paul Steinhardt, Princeton University

"Addressing the scientific version of the question of why there is something rather than nothing, Quinn and Nir take the reader on a fascinating journey through the story of particle physics and cosmology."
– David Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

"The aim of this book is to use one of the most fundamental questions facing physicists today – why the observable universe contains a quantifiable asymmetry between the amount of matter and antimatter – to take readers on a tour of a host of important concepts in modern particle physics and cosmology. Helen Quinn and Yossi Nir have impeccable particle-physics credentials, and their book is a timely and informative contribution."
– Mark Trodden, Syracuse University

"This book deals with one of the most fundamental mysteries of nature. Perhaps it is fitting that the authors have taken a very ambitious approach to writing about it: they cover just about every aspect of modern particle physics. This book will appeal to a serious reader whose curiosity will be rewarded by a wealth of ideas and history related to the subject of matter-antimatter asymmetry."
– Alexander Kusenko, University of California, Los Angeles


Acknowledgments xi

Chapter 1: Prelude: The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter 1

Chapter 2: Constant Physics in an Evolving Universe 7
Universal Laws 7
Hubble and the Expanding Universe 8
Red-shifts: Evidence for an Expanding Universe 12
Numbers Large and Small 17
What Do We Mean by "Universe"? 19

Chapter 3: As the Universe Expands 21
Running the Clock Forward: Radiation 21
Running the Clock Forward: Dark Matter 26
Running the Clock Forward: Light Nuclei 29
Running the Clock Forward: Matter and Antimatter 32

Chapter 4: What Is Antimatter? 36
What Is Matter? 36
Dirac Introduces Antimatter 42
Experiments Confirm That Antimatter Exists 45
Radioactive Decays of Nuclei 48

Chapter 5: Enter Neutrinos 51
Pauli: The Beta Decay Puzzle 51
Fermi: The Theory of Neutrinos Develops 53
Cowan and Reines: Neutrinos Detected 55

Chapter 6: Mesons 57
Yukawa and the Pi-Meson 57
Strange Mesons, Strange Quantum Concepts 61

Chapter 7: Through the Looking Glass 63
What Physicists Mean by the Term Symmetry 63
A Gedanken Experiment 64
The Actual Experiment 67

Chapter 8: Through the Looking Antiglass 73
Another Gedanken Experiment 73
Cronin and Fitch: Matter and Antimatter Do Not Follow the Same Laws 75

Chapter 9: The Survival of Matter 80
Pauli's Other Letter: Initial Conditions on the Universe 80
Sakharov: The Conditions Needed to Develop an Imbalance 84
Cosmology with Sakharov's Conditions Met: Baryogenesis 88

Chapter 10: Enter Quarks 91
Quarks 91
Why Don't We See the Quarks? 96
What about Dark Matter? 100
The Missing Charm, the Surprising Tau 101
The Standard Model: Particles and Interactions 107

Chapter 11: Energy Rules 111
Stored Energy, Forces, and Energy Conservation 111
Force Fields Permeating Space 114
Field Theory and the Energy Function 116

Chapter 12: Symmetry Rules 121
Symmetries as Answers to the Question "Why?" 121
Symmetries and Conservation Laws 123
Space-Time Symmetries 124
Gauge Symmetries 126
Discrete Symmetries 128
Baryon and Lepton Number Conservation? 130

Chapter 13: Standard Model Gauge Symmetries 132
The Symmetry behind the Electromagnetic Interaction 132
The Symmetry behind the Strong Interaction 134
The Symmetry behind the Weak Interaction 137

Chapter 14: A Missing Piece 140
The Puzzle of Particle Masses 140
How Do We Describe Nothing? 146
At Last, CP Violated in the Standard Model 153

Chapter 15: It Still Doesn't Work! 159
Running the Clock Forward: The Standard Model 159
Now What? 163

Chapter 16: Tools of the Trade 168
Accelerators 168
Detectors 172
Data Handling and Analysis 177
How Projects Develop 178

Chapter 17: Searching for Clues 180
Where Are We Now? 180
Testing the Standard Model in B-Meson Decays 182
Oddone: How to Build B Factories? 184
Running the B Factories: The First Test 190

Chapter 18: Speculations 194
Why Are We Never Satisfied? 194
Grand Unified Theories 195
Supersymmetry 201
Way beyond the Standard Model 204

Chapter 19: Neutrino Surprises 206
Davis, Bahcall, Koshiba: Solar Neutrinos 206
Quantum Neutrino Properties 214

Chapter 20: Following the New Clues 222
Some Things We Know 222
Some Things We Speculate About 225
Fitting It All Together 227

Chapter 21: Finale 231
Appendix: A Timeline of Particle Physics and Cosmology 233
Perspective 233
Relevant Nineteenth-Century Developments 234
1900-1930: Development of Quantum Ideas, Beginnings of
Scientific Cosmology 238
1930-1950: New Particles, New Ideas 245
1930-1960s: The Advent of Accelerator Experiments--The Particle Explosion; Implications of Expanding Universe Explored 249
1964-1973: Formulation of the Modern View of Particles and the
Universe 256
Two Standard Models Emerge--Particles and Cosmology 263

Index 273

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Helen R. Quinn is professor of physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, she is the coauthor of The Charm of Strange Quarks: Mysteries and Revolutions of Particle Physics.

Yossi Nir is professor of physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

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