Thanks to today’s ‘Google Doodle’ the world is learning, or for some simply being reminded, that today marks the 60th anniversary of the first book published by Stanislaw Lem.
At this juncture I feel the need to confess that Solaris (the 2002 remake of the book originally written by Lem in 1961) forever holds a place in my heart for being the only film I have ever walked out of having paid to see at the cinema.
Although we have not (yet) been attacked by the inhabitants of Venus as the plot of The Astronauts celebrated today depicts, interstellar travel is an area which is no less removed from our thoughts now as it was 60 years ago. Indeed, with NASA announcing earlier this month that they are again looking for candidates to train as astronauts, the dream of space travel is very much alive.
It is amazing to think that what so often starts as science-fiction over time becomes science fact. The Washington Post agrees.
Remember that bit in Demolition Man with the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library ?!
But on a more serious note, so much of the technology we use today could have been little more than the stuff of science-fiction even only as far back as when Lem was first writing.
What is even more interesting is when the things that scientists themselves consider fiction start to appear to be fact.
While we wait to see if there really are particles travelling faster than the speed of light, scientist Nicholas Mee has been busy writing about another possible contender for transfer from fiction to fact- the Higgs boson.
Higgs Force tells a very human story while remaining true to the science. Swept along by eccentric scientists, suspense, passion and drama, readers learn about the colossal technology involved in the quest for the Higgs particle and the major implications for science (and our knowledge of the world that we live in) if the Higgs particle is found.
The book tells the story of the scientists who have elucidated the structure of matter, culminating in the amazing modern synthesis of the laws of nature into a single theory. It tells the story of the fundamental constituents of matter themselves and the forces that bind them together.
Ultimately the book is about the symmetry at the heart of matter; the mystery of how this symmetry is broken; and the enormous efforts at CERN to complete the picture by tracking down the Higgs.
Higgs Force is divided into three parts. The first three chapters provide the broad historical and philosophical background to particle physics The next three focus, in turn, on each of the forces that are important in particle physics: electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong or colour force. The final three chapters are about the modern synthesis of the particles and forces and the search for the last missing piece in the particle physics jigsaw.
In the final chapter, Mee describes the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), how it came into being, and how it works. Higgs Force ends on a hopeful note foreseeing the likely discovery of the Higgs particle in the near future and the dramatic implications this has for modern-day science.
Of course, such a crucial discovery will prompt scientists to ask even deeper questions and to probe the boundaries of understanding even further. Physicists will continue with patience and determination – and increasingly precise and powerful instruments – their quest which started several thousand years ago: the human endeavour to understand the cosmos and to turn science-fiction into science fact.
For more information on Higgs Force visit the author’s website and of course keep checking here.