‘The Particle at the End of the Universe’ Gets Real
“The Particle at the End of the Universe” is a scientific detective story, the saga of the search for the Higgs. Like all such stories, it’s driven by a fundamental, yet elusive, mystery: What is the nature of the universe? That, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll believes, is both a matter of philosophy and curiosity, going back to Aristotle on the one hand, and on the other, to our ongoing fascination with how reality works.
“Passion for science,” he writes late in the book, “derives from an aesthetic sensibility, not a practical one. We discover something new about the world, and that lets us better appreciate its beauty.” This is a key idea, for it suggests a way of thinking about theoretical physics — even for the nonscientifically minded — as the search for “an elegant mechanism … like being able to read poetry in the original language, instead of being stuck with mediocre translation.”