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Mass By Jim Baggott | Book Review

- 9:23 PM

Mass: The Quest To Understand Matter From Greek Atoms To Quantum Fields

As the title of the book implies, the book is about Mass. The author of this fine book Jim Baggott is among the finest popular science authors in the UK who never fails to impress me. The book provides an outline of the history of our idea of mass. Beginning in ancient Greece, through the Medieval era, to modern developments of quantum and relativity. Serving as a comprehensive review of the substantial advancements in physics.

 At first glance, mass doesn't seem very interesting. In fact, it appears to be a plain and commonplace part of the matter. Only acting as an attribute that lets items act in a certain way. However the deeper we get into the text, the less apparent the meaning of the word mass becomes. Alongside mass, the author also focuses a great deal on what Matter is. The closer we look, the more nuanced matter gets, until we begin to understand that it doesn't exist in the context that we might think. In the end, you start to realize you are going a wild ride into a universe you only thought you understood.

If your head gets a little fuzzy when you try to understand quantum physics then this may be the book for you. The author is able to somehow break down the quantum theory so that it quite easy to follow. When I began reading this book I was scared that, like my first college quantum lecture encounter, I might not comprehend much of anything. But this book allowed me to grasp many ideas that my university lecturers couldn't convey to me during my studies. The beautifully straightforward way in which Baggott describes physics and his unique approach to the ending of each chapter makes this book stand out from the pack.

Five Things We Learned


This book's “five things we learned” feature that is found at the end of each chapter is worth the price of the admission by its self. It really is a fantastic method to clarify ideas before going forward. Far too many times while reading without even noticing it I find my self cruising about something complicated, dull, or simply uninteresting. Only to find myself lost as I progress through the book. The way the author handles his “five things we learned” feature is simply not possible. It forces you to pause, carefully consider what you should now understand and what you actually understood. Making sure that you have already comprehended what was required of you in order to be able to move forward to the next chapter.

What You Will Learn


The principles are quite vague, so you must be ready to learn with an open mind. To keep things interesting Baggott using funny footnotes to hold your attention. Also, he gave me the idea he considers some of the subjects as tough as I do. By adding some amusing metaphors and fun stories, he makes it much easier to understand the concepts contained in this book. He provides extremely detailed information and analysis about the scientists who are in charge of making improvements in quantum field theory. My only concern is that the book often describes experimental outcomes without describing their studies. However, at the end of the book, he provides us with a compilation of sources for those who wish to know more.

He starts by carefully discusses how Greek philosophers thought about the idea of atoms. This includes the greek's explanation of what the universe is constructed of. We continue with a journey through the history of our growing comprehension of what matter is and the essence of mass. This is pretty straightforward content. However, he does not simply shift from a metaphysical to a scientific point of view. Instead, he continues with the metaphysical ideas that underscore the fact we can't really know the reality, only our sensory reactions and the models that are built as a result.

Today physicists are now using the ideas behind quantum field theory to understand mass. Mass comprises the laws of Newton, Einstein's relativity theory, the discovery of the boson of Higg, modern quantum chromodynamics, and recently the particulate physics model. Through light-hearted stories of historical findings, Baggott manages to entertain and educate us on the evolving conceptions about what mass actually is.

When he progresses, Baggott takes us through relativity and its consequences for mass to rely on one's own point of view. As well as quantum theory to underscore our increasing comprehension of what things are. Then he gets to his major point where we notice that mass is not the basic element of life that it seems to be. Rather, a mixture of the influence of quantum fields and the effect of energy being produced. That's quite the clever turnaround of our normal perspective on mass and matter and it's wonderfully well described.

Cons Of The Book


I do have a few critiques for this otherwise great book. I believe the book didn't give relativity the focus it deserves. The author's explanation manages to be brief and lacking much detail while at the same time managing to be boring. Making that section of the book one of the least interesting it contains. This is especially if you have read before on relativity. This book does a much better job with quantum theory. However even with quantum theory sometimes he did not give enough clarification in exactly how he came to the conclusions he did. That all being said at the book was still quite enjoyable for me, in spite of it lacking in certain areas.

Who Should Read Mass


I would greatly urge someone interested in learning what the world consists of to read this book. It would be difficult to understand for anyone without some knowledge of physics, but for anyone with a thirst for knowledge, it is a fine option. Particularly for students studying chemistry and especially physics will find to book worthwhile. There came a period when physicists like Stephen Hawking were criticizing philosophy. However, in reality for ideas like mass philosophy is still essential and very useful.


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