Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Lightness of Being by Frank Wilczek

The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of ForcesThe Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces by Frank Wilczek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is from 2008 but it focuses on different aspects of particle physics than books that I've read so far. A few things I learned/ reviewed include:

1) energy is not conserved- as proved at CERN by creating more mass from smashing protons and neutrons together (Ch 3),

2) the interiors of protons and neutrons are made of quarks and gluons which we can't see directly (categorized by flavors/colors) (Ch 7),

3) a different description of the uncertainty principle than I've heard (Ch 7),

4) quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is the theory of strong interactions, a fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons, which make up hadrons such as the proton, neutron, and pion,

5) Hadrons are in two groups: baryons made of three quarks, and mesons made of one quark and one antiquark. (Protons and neutrons are baryons; pions are mesons),

6) "symmetry" is how physicists figured out/ explain the rules of quarks and gluons (Ch 7),

7) quarks that are close have almost no force attracting them, but there's a strong force that grows when they separate (?) (Ch 7),

8) the universe is made up of matter (4%), dark matter, and dark energy (Ch 8),

9) the "empty" part of space is not empty but an electromagnetic field/ time-space made up of hadrons which Wilczek calls "the grid" which is how gravity operates on a big scale (Ch 8.),

10) quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. It describes how light and matter interact (light gets heavy inside the 'grid") and is the first theory where there is agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity

11) Quarks and gluons don't have mass? But they create the mass of the protons and neutrons with their energy?

I read the first half the book twice in a row. He lost me more and more in later chapters as he tried to point towards a possible future unified theory. I did not read the second half twice because I was mentally exhausted but I might have to just reread the second half of the book sometime to have it sink in.

Update: Now that I've let my brain rest awhile, I guess the issue here is that this was the physics landscape before superstring theory gained so much traction? I'm not sure which parts are no longer relevant- assuming superstring is even true- but it's still interesting to read such a different attempt at nearing a unified theory.

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