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For most of human history, man has been trying to discover just how the universe works. The Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the fundamental constituents and forces of nature, has proved a useful explanation, and recent theories attempting to unify these fundamental forces-such as string theory-have been wonderfully encouraging. Experimental proof, however, has always lagged behind theory. Now, thanks to powerful new tools and the dedication of a handful of pioneers at the frontiers of research, we are approaching the next great leap in understanding: supersymmetry.In this groundbreaking work, renowned physicist Gordon Kane takes us inside both the conceptual framework of supersymmetry and the giant particle accelerators-the atom smashers-where this fascinating discovery should occur. After giving us the basics of the Standard Model, Kane explains the theory of supersymmetry, which implies that each of the fundamental particles has a "superpartner" that can be detected at energies and intensities only now being achieved in the giant accelerators. If Kane and his colleagues are correct, these superpartners will also help solve many of the puzzles of modern physics-such as the existence of the Higgs boson-as well as one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology: the notorious "dark matter" of the universe.No one interested in the future of science will want to miss this absorbing narrative of science in the making.
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Call it a preview of coming attractions. The physical theory called "supersymmetry" is as yet unproven, but its proof will unite the four fundamental forces of nature--electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces--and lead to the so-called Grand Unified Theory that physicists have long quested after. The theory underlying supersymmetry posits that every particle has a "superpartner" (a quark has a "squark," an electron a "selectron," and so on), whose existence can be adduced by observable behavior. Some of these superpartners, such as the conjectured Higgs bosons, are "really a new kind of matter," suggests physicist Gordon Kane in Supersymmetry.
The experimental proof required to validate supersymmetry will soon be available, when reconfigured particle accelerators at the Fermilab in Illinois and CERN in Switzerland go on line. These accelerators will be powerful enough to "smash" particles at hitherto unknown levels of energy. They will also be enormously expensive, Kane adds, a cost he justifies by insisting that "Society always comes out ahead, even from a purely financial perspective, when it builds such facilities, because new developments lead to 'spinoffs' that in turn lead to multibillion-dollar industries." Society will come out ahead in another way, Kane confidently predicts, with supersymmetry's providing knowledge of how the world really works. Accessible and thought-provoking, Kane's book offers a glimpse of that knowledge to come. --Gregory McNameeAbout the Author:
Gordon Kane is an internationally acclaimed particle physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is a popular public lecturer and the author of The Particle Garden.
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