No one is more successful than this author when it comes to making the cutting edge of physics more accessible to a broad lay audience. In Schrodinger's Kittens, he took readers to the eerie world of subatomic particles & waves. Now, he explores the most exciting area of research in physics today: string theory. Following a series of major breakthroughs in the 1990s, physicists are putting together a clearer picture of how subatomic particles work. By hypothesizing particles as a single loop of vibrating "string," they are on the brink of discovering a way to explain all of nature's forces in a single theory. Grandly named "superstrings," & incorporating the ideas of "supersymmetry," these models are the prime candidate for the long sought-for "Theory of Everything." Written in clear & accessible language. The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, & the Theory of Everything brings to life the remarkable scientific research that is on the cusp of radically altering our conception of the universe.
Ever since Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, the Holy Grail of physics has been a "Theory of Everything" that would explain the behavior of all the particles and forces in nature in one set of equations. Popular science writer Gribbin tackles this quest in a thorough yet palatable primer geared to the serious reader. He starts with a clear introduction to the subatomic particle zoo (the subject of his last book, Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality). Where once protons, neutrons and electrons reigned, there is now a "periodic table" of particles, and physicists have to worry about a potentially infinite number of types of particles with names like W and Z bosons, red up quarks, blue down quarks, etc. From there, Gribbin moves on to supersymmetry, a theory that attempts to bring Einsteinian space-time back into the quantum-mechanical fold of contemporary particle physics. Many physicists now treat particles not as points but as strings, tiny one-dimensional entities vibrating in 10-dimensional space-time. Gribbin helps us get our bearings in a universe of 11 dimensions, and while he refrains from the cosmic speculations of, say, Paul Davies, diligent readers without any specialized knowledge of physics or mathematics will come away with a flavor of the latest ideas theorists are grappling with, including the six major rival contenders for the TOE (Theory of Everything). An appendix previews the experiments scientists are planning in their attempts to create "little bangs," particle-accelerator collisions that may reveal what types of matter arose during the primal Big Bang. Overall, this is an exciting tour de force. 23 drawings.
As an older book on String Theory, the author does a great job giving the history of particle physics in a way that a non-physicist can understand. The book leaves off before the LHC kicked in but it's accurate and informative up to that point.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding what string theory is and how it works. Or at least, how they think it works!