Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics

Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics

For fans of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: a richly conjured world, in map and metaphor, of particle physicsAtom Land brings the impossibly small world of particle physics to life, taking readers on a guided journey through the subatomic world. Readers will sail the subatomic seas in search of electron ports, boson continents, and ha...

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Title:Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics
Author:Jon Butterworth
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics Reviews

  • Jim Razinha

    I am obliged to

    (independent publisher) for providing me an Advance Reader Copy of the American edition through

    .

    This is a wonderful book. I quickly grew tired of the travel metaphor that Prof. Butterworth uses, but shed that imagined weariness when he got into weak forces and by the end, was a wholehearted fan. I have not come across a better, layperson's explanation of particle physics than this book. No, it's not rigorously mathematically bound, nor is this a classroom

    I am obliged to

    (independent publisher) for providing me an Advance Reader Copy of the American edition through

    .

    This is a wonderful book. I quickly grew tired of the travel metaphor that Prof. Butterworth uses, but shed that imagined weariness when he got into weak forces and by the end, was a wholehearted fan. I have not come across a better, layperson's explanation of particle physics than this book. No, it's not rigorously mathematically bound, nor is this a classroom text. What it is is an eminently readable, broad scope relation of particle physics from atoms to major subparticles to constituents and carriers and offspring/by products...to the theoretical beyond.

    I have more than a passing, if infrequent, interest, and somewhat more than average (but far less than a practicing physicist's) understanding of particle physics, quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics; Butterworth's descriptions are marvelous summaries of the prevailing theories, their histories, their interrelations. I came away with a better understanding of the weak force and associated bosons than before.

    I can gush all day on this...it's very good. It takes a highly knowledgeable and skilled writer to distill complex concepts to easily understandable form, and Butterworth is that writer. Are there other books that can give yo more? Of course...but unless you really want to dig deep into the differential equatin, tensor math, and whatever other bizarre constructs found the science, this does well.

    A couple of author/editor/publisher notes:

    - I totally understand the aim at simplicity, but a few companion diagrams illustrating helicity, chirality would be helpful to those completely unfamiliar with the concepts (picture...1,000 words...right?) and in at least one section the avoidance of equations could be well served by a footnote/endnote reference to the comparison of Maxwell's original 20 equations to their simpler four equations in vector form. Sure, people can look them up, but it wouldn't hurt to put them in an aftersection.

    - I love the retro

    at the start of each chapter! (I had to ask a research guru friend for the term for them...my searches didn't return what I thought they were.) Nice touch.

  • Pop Bop

    Don't Worry About the "Whimsy"; This Is Top Drawer Teaching

    I was a bit leery about this title at first. I have a working knowledge of physics and a reasonably broad understanding of the fundamentals of quantum physics. But, more and deeper understanding is always better, and it's one thing to sort of understand what you're reading and quite another to truly comprehend what you just read or at least to extend your reach. So, this book looked interesting - except for the come on -- "Readers will s

    Don't Worry About the "Whimsy"; This Is Top Drawer Teaching

    I was a bit leery about this title at first. I have a working knowledge of physics and a reasonably broad understanding of the fundamentals of quantum physics. But, more and deeper understanding is always better, and it's one thing to sort of understand what you're reading and quite another to truly comprehend what you just read or at least to extend your reach. So, this book looked interesting - except for the come on -- "Readers will sail the subatomic seas in search of electron ports, boson continents, and hadron islands. The sea itself is the quantum field, complete with waves." Really?

    Well, guess what. Dr. Butterworth makes this work. Our ship, (the particle), sails through the ocean, (making and encountering waves), and I'll be darned if the author doesn't turn this into the clearest, crispest, and most illuminating discussion of particle/wave issues that I've ever read.

    For example, Butterworth describes the behavior of waves as they pass through a channel and enter a harbor. We learn about amplitude, frequency, and wavelength by watching seagulls bob up and down. We learn about diffraction by watching the wave spread out after exiting the channel and we learn about interference by watching two sets of waves cancel each other out. We then turn to the famous double slit experiment and see every single one of these principles and observations born out by the experiment, although this time our waves are made of light. The point is stunningly and memorably clear. But then we play around with frequency and energy and thus begin to understand the particle aspects of light. From there we use the ocean as a metaphor for the "quantum field", and that becomes clear as well.

    At this point, even if you don't follow another word in the book, you will have begun to understand how quantum field theory "incorporates particle-like and wave-like properties into a new kind of object". You will begin to understand Feynman's "path integral", at which point you will be so pleased with yourself that you'll have to take a break and have a cup of tea just to calm down. And really, you've just started your journey. (O.K., so maybe that travel metaphor does work.)

    Everything beyond this point is bonus time if you're a casual but motivated science reader. And to be honest, at some point before the end the reader's understanding may top out. (Don't test me on supersymmetry.) But before that we will learn about electrons, neutrons and protons, about why Dirac equations are so important, about bosons and fermions, muons, leptons, matter and anti-matter, hadrons and quarks. You'll learn about quantum chromodynamics and gluons, and how does gravity fit into all of this? For these topics we don't really rely on the ocean/atomland travel metaphor anymore, except as a generally useful way to introduce and organize topics, but the whole "atom land" frame doesn't get in the way either, so if it helps the reader more power to it.

    My larger point is that this is one of the most useful, accessible, engaging, non-jargony, effective and yet modest teaching books I've seen. No celebrity scientist preening and no metaphysical blarney. This is a calm, earnest, patient, and authentically good natured effort to open the reader's mind. It was a tremendous and rewarding find.

    (Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe Digital copy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  • Carrie

    , a book by Jon Butterworth, is a macroscopic look at a microscopic topic (and beyond) in this comprehensive look at subatomic particles and particle physics. Butterworth uses a metaphor to help guide readers through the tour of the atom. While the metaphor is overused, and, at times, a little forced, he was able to create a visualization of the unseen.

    After reading this book, I purchased a hard-cover copy for my classroom. This title will be a good fit with my upcoming nuclear physics

    , a book by Jon Butterworth, is a macroscopic look at a microscopic topic (and beyond) in this comprehensive look at subatomic particles and particle physics. Butterworth uses a metaphor to help guide readers through the tour of the atom. While the metaphor is overused, and, at times, a little forced, he was able to create a visualization of the unseen.

    After reading this book, I purchased a hard-cover copy for my classroom. This title will be a good fit with my upcoming nuclear physics unit. I am anxious to see how students can understand excerpts of this book.

    Thank you to Netgalley, The Experiment, and Jon Butterworth for an ARC to review before I purchased this title for my classroom.

  • Willy Marz Thiessam

    This book by Jon Butterworth is a real treasure for those who like their intellectual feasts with the wine of humor. Butterworth uses the metaphor of a map to describe the world of experimental physics. He not only explains what we know but also and more importantly what we don't know.

    I think an alternate title should be "Here be dragons". Like the early map makers who drew dragons where they had no information here Butterworth goes one better, he envisions what it is like to be a scientist jou

    This book by Jon Butterworth is a real treasure for those who like their intellectual feasts with the wine of humor. Butterworth uses the metaphor of a map to describe the world of experimental physics. He not only explains what we know but also and more importantly what we don't know.

    I think an alternate title should be "Here be dragons". Like the early map makers who drew dragons where they had no information here Butterworth goes one better, he envisions what it is like to be a scientist journeying into those outer reaches where what we know is often speculative.

    The book acts as a synopsis of the current state of research. Now that we have identified the Higgs-Boson we are really no further to answering some of the other questions that physics beset with. Instead there are ideas about alternate dimensions, unknown particles and ideas that are so wild its hard to conceptualize. Hard but not impossible as Butterworth proves in this book. Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.

  • Joseph

    Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics by Jon Butterworth. Butterworth is a lecture in particle physics at a layman's level. Butterworth is a physics professor at University College London and a member of the Atlas experiment at Cern's Large Hadron Collider. He studied Physics at the University of Oxford, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989 followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in particle physics in 1992. His Ph.D. research used the ZEUS

    Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics by Jon Butterworth. Butterworth is a lecture in particle physics at a layman's level. Butterworth is a physics professor at University College London and a member of the Atlas experiment at Cern's Large Hadron Collider. He studied Physics at the University of Oxford, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989 followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in particle physics in 1992. His Ph.D. research used the ZEUS particle detector to investigate R-parity violating supersymmetry at the Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator (HERA) at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg.

    Quantum physics, particle physics, and hard science for laymen have been around for some time. In the early 1980s, I read Taking the Quantum Leap by Fred Allan Wolf. I also read Feynman's autobiographical works on his career and work. Today the there are hundreds of documentaries and books on the subject from basic physics to the so-called Holographic Principle. These are written either at a level that a high school graduate or liberal arts major can easily understand with a bit of faith in the mathematics around the theory that is not included. The math is impossibly complex for someone outside the field. Back in the 1980s, I ordered a two-book set on String theory through a catalog. I received two books of nothing but mathematical formulas and proofs far beyond my calculus lessons. There is a great effort involved in translating mathematical proofs into something that is understandable to an educated general public.

    Atom Land works on three themes. First, it is about particle physics from the basics to the exotic. All the various points are made from the two-slit experiment to what makes up protons and neutrons and the forces that allow them to exist. Some time is given to explain the neutrino detectors. There is all the fascinating science that is included in other works. Great minds are also included like Dirac and Maxwell.

    Second, Butterworth's title invokes the classic novella Flatland originally written as a satire of Victorian England but remembered more so for its explanation of dimensions as a three-dimensional sphere describes a two-dimensional society. Third, Butterworth creates a map of the particle physics. There is the Isle of Leptons, Atom Land, Hadron Island, Isle of Quarks, Bosonia, and like all good old maps, there is a "Here be Dragons" section reserved for anti-matter and other dimensions. The lands all have cities that are (Isle of Lepton -- Strange, Charm, Top, Bottom...) which are connected by roads and related forces and particles connected by air routes. The map is very well done and well thought out and could be a great teaching aid. I was most impressed with the map.

    Atom Land for the good and potential it has seems to be geared to a high school or liberal arts level. I do have a liberal arts degree but still felt a bit patronized by the level of discussion. I have read and reviewed quite a bit in this area and even in my liberal arts degree, my electives were eaten up by science classes. This would be a great book for someone without much experience or reading on the subject or as a teaching aid/support material.  There is a great deal of information presented and presented in an easily understandable format.  

  • Andrew

    Atom Land was a joy to read.

    I’m not a scientist, astronomer, physicist, etal. Just have a curious mind. Atom Land does a good job of helping those who are afraid of the Math in Physics. Being able to explain complex issues with simple illustrations is a gift. Jon Butterworth’s sailing voyage hit the mark for me. We come from the west, the land of what we consider normal. Planets, moons, suns, galaxies. This is what we see and interact with. Mr Butterworth then brings us to our starting point, Po

    Atom Land was a joy to read.

    I’m not a scientist, astronomer, physicist, etal. Just have a curious mind. Atom Land does a good job of helping those who are afraid of the Math in Physics. Being able to explain complex issues with simple illustrations is a gift. Jon Butterworth’s sailing voyage hit the mark for me. We come from the west, the land of what we consider normal. Planets, moons, suns, galaxies. This is what we see and interact with. Mr Butterworth then brings us to our starting point, Port Electron. Starting at Port Electron to give us a basic explanation of Waves and Particles to Atom Land, Isle of Lepton, Isle of Quarks, Hadron Island, Bosonia finally going to Far East. This is where Dark Matter and Dark Energy lives, extra dimensions, and things that are little more than guesses. But guesses lead to questions, questions to ideas of how to find out, then verification or failure. Then the process rolls on. How everything is connected and the journey we need to take back and forth to these differing regions may seem daunting but is well worth the investment in a cabin with a window.

    There is very minimal amounts of Math. E=mc2 is an equation that many have heard, the ultimate consequences of that simple statement is still being explored. So we shouldn’t expect to walk away with profound insights but if you are interested you can use Atom Land as a jumping off point to take a more meaningful voyage into the creation of things.

    Mr Butterworth is a teacher as well as a storyteller. I wholeheartedly recommend Atom Land

    I wish to thank the Experiment Publisher, Jon Butterworth, and NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

  • penny shima glanz

    For the past several years I've attended periodic public physics lectures at my alma mater. It's been over twenty years since I studied the subject and I never progressed past a general introduction. This book helps to refresh my memory and to reinforce the new-to-me material I've been learning about.

    Atom Land provides an approachable overview to particle physics. The travel guide format makes the topic approachable; it allows the reader to digest the material in small chunks without being over

    For the past several years I've attended periodic public physics lectures at my alma mater. It's been over twenty years since I studied the subject and I never progressed past a general introduction. This book helps to refresh my memory and to reinforce the new-to-me material I've been learning about.

    Atom Land provides an approachable overview to particle physics. The travel guide format makes the topic approachable; it allows the reader to digest the material in small chunks without being overwhelmed. I agree with other reviewers that while the no equations mantra is one intended to comfort the maths phobic, if they're written out in words you have the substance, please take the next step and write the style--the formula!

    At the start of each section general maps are included to help orientate the reader and reinforce the travel guide theme. At times I found the travel metaphor forced but appreciate an attempt at a unique approach to a topic that has gained significant shelf space in the popular press. I think this is a useful book for those interested in particle physics. It is the sort of title I wish existed when I was a student and I'm appreciative of it now to help me understand current scientific discoveries.

    I received an eARC of this title from

    in exchange for a review. The FTC wants

    .

  • Victoria

    A Map Of The Invisible is a great book for anyone who wants a guide to particle physics. Written to be easily understood, A Map Of The Invisible is a unique and interesting read for anyone with a growing passion for science.

    The first thing that really pulls you in is the writing. Lyrical in moments, Butterworth has a great way of explaining this theory through this book in the form of a journey and how he describes makes this book such a thoughtful read, it can be captivating and it is a great

    A Map Of The Invisible is a great book for anyone who wants a guide to particle physics. Written to be easily understood, A Map Of The Invisible is a unique and interesting read for anyone with a growing passion for science.

    The first thing that really pulls you in is the writing. Lyrical in moments, Butterworth has a great way of explaining this theory through this book in the form of a journey and how he describes makes this book such a thoughtful read, it can be captivating and it is a great way to explain the theory in this book - the introduction gets you.

    The theory in this book is laid out so well. Through the use of a metaphor, Butterworth explains big subject matters incredibly well and combined with the illustrations in this book, the ideas are brought to life. A book I would highly recommend to someone just starting out in science, A Map Of The Invisible is a brilliant read.

    (I received an ARC from Netgalley for a honest review).

  • Ben Babcock

    Ben is still split on this one, folks.

    tries to teach us about … well, particle physics. Specifically, Jon Butterworth takes us on a tour of the different particles in the Standard Model of physics, explains the three fundamental forces that interact with them, and then expands our horizons by briefly touching on the frontiers of physics research. The subject matter is fascinating, and Butterworth’s pre

    Ben is still split on this one, folks.

    tries to teach us about … well, particle physics. Specifically, Jon Butterworth takes us on a tour of the different particles in the Standard Model of physics, explains the three fundamental forces that interact with them, and then expands our horizons by briefly touching on the frontiers of physics research. The subject matter is fascinating, and Butterworth’s presentation of it is generally pretty interesting. Yet the book itself never quite gels for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC.

    The title of this book is literally the metaphor Butterworth uses throughout: he pitches this as a journey through the land of particle physics, starting at the Isle of Leptons and taking us all the way to the high-energy land of Bosonia on the eastern edge of the map. I’m so ambivalent about this metaphor. I think I mostly hate it, because it sounds so contrived. But there are parts that managed to get to me—and the little maps at the start of each section are cute! So your mileage may vary, and maybe this is the metaphor that finally helps you make sense of particle physics. Probably not though.

    Butterworth promises early on that he won’t throw any equations at us. This is a fairly standard boilerplate promise in the popular physics book game these days.

    adheres to the letter of this promise but not, I submit, it spirit: there are a few times when Butterworth basically

    the equivalent of an equation, and if that isn’t splitting hairs, I don’t know what is. I also don’t agree with this received wisdom that equations should be avoided at all costs. Sometimes equations are elegant, beautiful ways of demonstrating physics. You don’t need to understand or be able to manipulate them to appreciate how they bring together, for example, various forces. And in attempting to avoid the use of equations, Butterworth, like so many other authors of these books, ends up going through contortions or explaining things in a tortured way that ultimately make less sense (in my opinion).

    Indeed, one of my major reservations about

    is simply that I’m having a hard time pinning down the intended audience. The first part of the book spends a long time explaining how modern quantum physics understands the nature of a “particle” and wave-particle duality. Yet it isn’t long before Butterworth is throwing around terms that a lot of newbies won’t understand or be able to grasp the way he’s explaining them. Combined with the utter dearth of images and figures, aside from the maps that preface each section, and this makes for some uneven reading.

    I will give

    this bit of praise, though: Butterworth spends a lot of time explaining the weak force, and I definitely understand it a lot better than I did before reading this! In particular, he covers concepts like

    and

    , which either I’ve never seen mentioned before in any physics books, or I must have totally forgotten about them. Again, the level of his explanations occasionally seems uneven in complexity, but I think I got the gist of it. And it led to some fascinating insights into the weak force, the nature of antimatter, and why symmetry is so important to physics. Moreover, Butterworth often touches on the possibility of finding a “theory of everything” and makes important points each time why that isn’t really the right way to look at physics and science.

    It occurred to me while I was reading that it must take a lot of confidence to write a popular physics book these days. There just seems to be so many out there—you must really think you’ve got what it takes, or got something others don’t, for your book to do something the other books haven’t. So, good on Butterworth for taking that leap and writing this book. It’s a decent book. But all it really did was make me want to re-read

    , by Lisa Randall, which had an excellent and more concise explanation of the Standard Model—complete with a diagram!

    stays true to its conceit the entire way through, and Butterworth attempts to explain the fundamental forces of our universe in clear terms. I think he mostly succeeds, but his style doesn’t quite work for me, and there are parts of the book that seem inconsistent in tone and difficulty level. It’s all right, but it’s messy in places. Then again, I guess that’s physics these days.

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