An enthralling and accessible account of humanity’s quest to make sense of our physical world, told through interwoven tales of inspiration, tragedy, and triumph.
How do the remarkable recent discoveries of the Higgs boson, dark matter, and dark energy connect with the equally revolutionary discoveries in centuries past? In Grace in All Simplicity, readers will delight in Cahn and Quigg's engaging prose and see how the infinite and the infinitesimal are joined. Today, physicists and astronomers are exploring distances from a billionth of a billionth of the human scale to the entire cosmos, and contemplating time intervals that range from less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second out to far longer than the age of the universe. Leaving home in this metaphorical way requires devising new instruments that spectacularly expand our senses and conceiving original ways of thinking that expand our minds. This is at once an act of audacity and an exercise in humility.
Grace in All Simplicity narrates the saga of how we have prospected for some of Nature’s most tightly held secrets, the basic constituents of matter and the fundamental forces that rule them. Our current understanding of the world (and universe) we inhabit is the result of curiosity, diligence, and daring, of abstraction and synthesis, and of an abiding faith in the value of exploration. In these pages we will meet scientists of both past and present. These men and women are professional scientists and amateurs, the eccentric and the conventional, performers and introverts. Scientists themselves, Cahn and Quigg convey their infectious joy as they search for new laws of nature.
Join the adventure as scientists ascend mountain tops and descend into caverns deep underground, travel to the coldest places on Earth, and voyage back in time to near the birth of the Universe. Visit today’s great laboratories and the astounding instruments they house. Grace in All Simplicity is a thrilling voyage filled with improbable discoveries and the extraordinary community of people who make them. Together, we will travel the path to the Higgs boson, weigh the evidence for subliminal dark matter, and learn what makes scientists invoke a mysterious agent named "dark energy." We will behold the emergence of a compelling picture of matter and forces, simple in its structure, graceful in the interplay of its parts, but still tantalizingly incomplete.
About the Author
Robert Cahn is Senior Scientist, Emeritus at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He graduated in chemistry and physics from Harvard before graduate study in Berkeley. A theoretical particle physicist by training, he has also worked in experimental particle physics and cosmology. He is the author of two advanced textbooks and important results on the Higgs boson, dark energy, and how particle physics influences our everyday lives. He was an active member of Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov, and Shcharansky, which worked for the freedom of these victims of Soviet oppression.
Chris Quigg is Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He graduated in physics at Yale before moving to Berkeley for his doctorate. He is the author of an acclaimed text on gauge theories and critical works on high-energy collisions, quarks, neutrinos, and the Higgs boson. He received the American Physical Society’s Sakurai Prize for theoretical physics and the German Alexander von Humboldt Prize. He rejuvenates himself on annual treks along France’s network of long-distance hiking trails.
“In Grace in All Simplicity, Cahn and Quigg share with us their ring-side view of the discoveries that led to our current picture of our most fundamental physical laws. Ironically, the path taken that led to our emerging view of the Universe is neither simple or graceful, but spell-binding and charming in all its human complexities.”
— Professor Steven Chu, Nobel laureate, Professor of Physics, Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Environmental Science and Engineering, Stanford University
“Engaging and captivating, Grace in All Simplicity is filled with riveting stories of the ups and downs of the remarkable scientists who made key experimental and theoretical advances in the search for a fundamental theory that might explain it all. The last chapter on ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds?’ is itself worth getting this book.” — E. William Colglazier, former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, former executive officer of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
“In this insightful and accessible book, Quigg and Cahn celebrate the people behind these discoveries, following their paths around the globe to explore the extraordinary experiments that probe the fundamental properties of the universe. The vast collective of minds that collaborate in this building, across space and time, is an astonishing feat itself—one driven by the most essential curiosity: that of our existence. A captivating book that reveals the interconnectedness of science’s most profound advances.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A grand history of the brilliant physicists who answered the question of all questions: What is the whole universe made from?” — Edward Tufte, statistician, visualizer, artist, and professor
“Cahn and Quigg regale us with non-stop fascinating stories about the quirky characters and inventive experiments that have built our understanding of the physical world and how it works. And those physicists, their experiments—and the rules of our universe that they discovered—really are quirky! A rare insider view into the dramatic developments of particle physics and cosmology.” — Saul Perlmutter, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor of Physics at University of California, Berkeley
“At heart, this book is a travelogue that takes readers on a journey through conceptual landscapes so exotic they challenge the imagination. It’s a highly engaging account of how successive generations of scientists broke through to the strange reality that underpins the familiar world we inhabit, beautifully capturing the wonder and fun of it all.” — J. Madeleine Nash, former TIME senior science correspondent and author of El Niño: Unlocking the Secrets of the Master Weather-Maker
"Robert Cahn and Chris Quigg share an uncanny ability to open up complex and bedrock scientific concepts to ordinary people in a way that clarifies the mind, makes what seemed impenetrable clear, and most of all sparks curiosity. After any given page of this book, a reader wants to know more." — Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces
"Erudite yet accessible, Grace in All Simplicity interweaves scientific adventure with remarkable human stories. Grace is also personal, as the authors Cahn and Quigg themselves participated in—and were affected by—many of these great discoveries. This makes the book a fine embarkation for those just beginning their journey, for those already on a scientific path, or for anyone who has followed this great story.”
— David Saltzberg, Professor of physics and astronomy, University of California Los Angeles, Science Consultant for The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, and Oppenheimer
“Grace in All Simplicity is an accessible and comprehensive narrative that reveals the history, personalities, experiments, accomplishments, failures, and metaphysical speculations involved in the rise of modern science. Cahn and Quigg deliver a realization of amazing grace in this extraordinarily satisfying and extremely educational read.” — S. James Gates, Jr., Clark Leadership Chair in Physics and Public Policy, recipient of the National Medal of Science
"Cahn and Quigg’s marvelous book gracefully leads us on a promenade through the many wonders that physicists and cosmologists, like themselves, have uncovered in the past hundred plus years. In doing so, their writing is a model of lucidity. I remain in awe of their achievement." — Gino Segrè, Professor of physics, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Pope of Physics