Monthly Archives: July 2012

Eddington’s universe

Whenever the poet George Mackay Brown reorganised his library, getting rid of some of the overspill, some books from younger years would always remain. There was the first Penguin book from 1935, a biography of Shelley by André Maurois; and … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 8: Physics is worth a mass

People remember 1967 for different reasons. It was the year of the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the military coup in Greece. It was the year when North Sea gas came ashore in Britain, when the Beatles issued … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 7: Three roads converge

By 1964 the challenge was clear. The familiar phenomena of electricity and magnetism looked as if they could be part of something more comprehensive, an electroweak interaction, with the electromagnetic field one of its aspects and the weak interaction another. … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 6: Can the circle be unbroken?

In the 1960s the tide in physics flowed towards tackling the strong interactions, as those grappling with the weak interactions had come up against an apparently unshiftable block. The technique that seemed to be the most powerful one was the … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 5: The strong dominate the field

By the mid-1960s, the situation in particle physics was not good. Its aim had been to uncover the basic building blocks of matter, and for a time it had seemed that the end was in sight. In 1917 Ernest Rutherford … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 4: Symmetry for the weak

The weak interactions are really weak compared to the strong ones. Indeed they are really weak compared to electromagnetism – about 100 billion times weaker. Yet there are also some similarities with electromagnetism. As far back as 1941 Julian Schwinger … Continue reading

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Understanding the Higgs 3: Symmetry for the strong

When the Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie died in 1899 he was a bitter and disappointed man. True, his mathematical ability had been recognised by some of the greatest people in the field, including the great German mathematician Felix Klein, and … Continue reading

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