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The Particle at the End of the Universe

How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

By Sean Carroll
16-minute read
Audio available
The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by Sean Carroll

The Particle at the End of the Universe gives you a crash course in particle physics by explaining the basics of what has become known as the “standard model.” The book also details the fascinating and exciting journey that eventually led to the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson.

  • Anyone interested in physics
  • Anyone who wants to learn about the origin and the characteristics of our universe
  • Anyone curious about the Large Hadron Collider and how it works

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist with a Ph.D. from Harvard University and works at the California Institute of Technology. In addition to his research, Carroll also wrote the critically acclaimed book From Eternity to Here, a scientific exploration of the nature of time.

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The Particle at the End of the Universe

How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

By Sean Carroll
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by Sean Carroll
Synopsis

The Particle at the End of the Universe gives you a crash course in particle physics by explaining the basics of what has become known as the “standard model.” The book also details the fascinating and exciting journey that eventually led to the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson.

Key idea 1 of 10

Atoms, the building blocks of ordinary matter, are made of protons, neutrons and electrons.

From the very beginning, we’ve wondered what exactly our bodies are made of. Modern science has revealed that everything – including you – is comprised of tiny particles or building blocks called atoms.

And these building blocks are composed of smaller, subatomic particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.

Every single atom has a unique number of protons in its nucleus – its atomic number. This number can be used to identify the atom on the periodic table, first published by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.

For example, the atom Helium has two protons in its nucleus, and is thus identified with the atomic number “two.” Plutonium, on the other hand, has 94 protons (a “heavier” atom) and can be found on the table at number 94.

In 1913, Niels Bohr made an important contribution to our understanding of the atom with his atom model. He found that electrons “orbit“ around the nucleus and its protons and neutrons, much like the moon orbits the earth.

Protons and electrons differ in two important ways: charge and weight. Electrons are negatively charged and relatively light compared to protons, which are positively charged and 1,840 times as “heavy” as electrons.

An atom is the smallest unit for certain chemical elements. Sometimes, however, atoms can join together and form what’s called a molecule. Many common substances, such as water or carbon dioxide, are actually molecules, or a specific combination of atoms stuck together.

For example, when two hydrogen atoms join with an oxygen atom, they create a water molecule. You can think of this as the tiniest possible drop of water.

As miniscule as atoms are, however, scientists soon came to know of an even stranger, tinier world within the protons, neutrons and electrons themselves.

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