Road To Reality–Part I

This past year I read Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe

The tome is definitely the read for anyone interested in our current understanding of reality from the ground up. It doesn’t shy away from mathematics like most popular science accounts. Rather, as mathematics is the gasoline to travel the Road, it fuels the reader up along the journey. Yet the mathematics quickly progresses from exploring what a number exactly is to a graduate level textbook equivalent and this whirlwind journey is not to be taken lightly. Rather than a Road, I actually consider The Road to Reality to be more of a Roadmap indicating a path to reality without fully providing the reader with the tools to travel it. It worked for me–a Physics PhD student–as most of the book was putting familiar things in a grander context. However, for those not on the Road as a career, supplemental work is probably needed to get the most out of the book. In the that spirit I am presenting a condensed Roadmap in chunks of 6 chapters (there are a whopping 34 chapters covering 1123 pages) with additional links to online courses (primarily sourced from the wonderful Khan academy, Coursera, and MIT OCW).

Without further ado, I present the Roadmap I of VI of Chapters 1-6 of The Road to Reality:

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Higgs Boson

Yesterday was a  big day for physics. A new particle was discovered, a boson, at the energy 126GeV, with every indication it is probably the much sought after Higgs.

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The Elusive Higgs

The two CERN collaborations, ATLAS and CMS, are trying to independently find the Higgs and confirm each other’s results. Each excludes a standard-model Higgs above 135GeV at above 95% confidence (to about 450 GeV if I recall) and ATLAS finds an excess around 126 GeV consistent with a Higgs at this mass. CMS finds a very slight excess, slightly displaced from (around 124 GeV) though roughly consistent with the ATLAS result. It’s not a detection yet (ATLAS would need more statistical significance on their excess), but it’s tantalizing. They’ll continue running and analyzing data next year, and hopefully we’ll know for sure!

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