November 26th, 2006

Loon

An unusually long read ...

Well, that was an odd one ... I started reading this right after knocking down Michio Kaku's Hyperspace back at the beginning of October, meaning that I was "stuck in it" for over 7 weeks! What's strange about this is that the book is neither excessively long (400-some pages), or dully-written, or overly technical. Quite to the contrary, Nobel laureate Leon Lederman (or his co-author Dick Teresi) keeps The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? quite engaging throughout, but for some reason I ended up making very slow progress through it.

Now, some would say "Hey, it's a physics books, what do you expect?", but I like physics books, especially ones using as much humor as is in this one. Lederman takes an interesting approach here, looking at the entire "intellectual history" of the search for the foundation particles of the world, from Democritus' "a-toms" to the products of the current massive colliders, discussing the evolution of the theories and how they related to discoveries from the lab (Lederman, being an "experimentalist" makes many jibes at the "theoretical" side of the physics department). Unfortunately, this is yet another book written before Clinton pulled the plug on the SSC (although it's not as unrestrained as Kaku in its enthusiasm, it seems that Lederman knew that the SSC was in serious jeopardy from the new regime in 1992), so it does have some of that "breathless anticipation" of all these cool new discoveries that seemed to be just around the corner in the Bush 1 era.

So, what's this "God Particle"? Well, it takes Lederman 340 pages to get around to that. Surprise! (or not, to science readers or fans of the Lexx TV series) It's the much-written of "Higgs Boson". Why is the Higgs boson the "God Particle"? It embarrasses me to say I'm not sure ... though it does seem to be one of those "missing links" (I was going to say "along with the Top/Truth quark" but I just noticed that this was discovered last year!) that would allow for a nice pat "Theory of Everything" with tidy symmetries from the innards of hadrons up through macro-world effects like electro-magnetism. It probably has something to do with being a quanta associated with the "Higgs field" which, in theory, permeates every place in the universe at all times, and gives mass to all particles (which, I assume, eventually points to a way of merging gravity into the Standard Model), but I could be off on that.

Anyway, The God Particle is (despite my long drag through it), a very informative and entertaining book (if, of course, you like science). This does seem to still be in print via a paperback reprint edition, so ought to be available through your local bookseller, but you could also snag a "very good" copy of the hardcover for under a buck via the Amazon new/used vendors!


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Loon

Is it just me?

OK, I guess demographically speaking this is a silly question, as there are damn few folks around LiveJournal who were alive to watch Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. However, I've been noticing these posters for the new "Nativity" propaganda film movie and the face of the lead actress looks familiar ...



It finally came to me ... that's Ruth Buzzi! Who'd have thunk that some Christian myth merchants would resurrect Buzzi's "Gladys" character for the role of Mary-on-the-half-shell? Needless to say, losing the hair-net for a head scarf is fabulous ... Gladys never looked so, uh, less unattractive.


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Loon

Bleh ...

Well, I'm missing the Bears game this afternoon, as they have me bartending down at the Shedd Aquarium. I'm not very happy about this on several levels, one ... it's very likely that a Shedd gig is "non tipping", so I won't make anything for my time, two ... if I recall correctly, this also involves a LOT of schlepping in the set-up and break-down areas, again for not much more than minimum wage, three ... it's a good hour each way, and if we're not out of there by like 12:30 we've missed the last bus and either have to walk a mile (on achey legs) or try to call a cab to come out there, and four ... well, I'm missing the Bears game! Needless to say, I'd rather be over at the hotel (with the game on!), but for some reason they didn't call me in either of the past couple of weekends. I'm hoping this is because their regular guy got back from vacation (and a few sick days) and is trying to make up some hours, and not that they've decided that they don't like me.

I expect I'll be back on late, and being tired and sore and cranky. Ah, but you all like me when I'm cranky, dontcha?


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