By Steve Nadis and Shing-Tung Yau
International Press of Boston (October 23, 2015)
Did you know that particle physicists like the Chinese government’s interest in building the next larger particle collider? If not, then this neat little book about the current plans for the Great Collider, aka “Nimatron,” is just for you.
Nadis and Yau begin their book laying out the need for a larger collider, followed by a brief history of accelerator physics that emphasizes the contribution of Chinese researchers. Then come two chapters about the hunt for the Higgs boson, the LHC’s success, and a brief survey of beyond the standard model physics that focuses on supersymmetry and extra dimensions. The reader then learns about other large-scale physics experiments that China has run or is running, and about the currently discussed options for the next larger particle accelerator. Nadis and Yau don’t waste time discussing details of all accelerators that are presently considered, but get quickly to the point of laying out the benefits of a circular 50 or even 100 TeV collider in China.And the benefits are manifold. The favored location for the gigantic project is Qinghuangdao, which is “an attractive destination that might appeal to foreign scientists” because, among other things, “its many beaches [are] ranked among the country’s finest,” “the countryside is home to some of China’s leading vineyards” and even the air quality is “quite good” at least “compared to Beijing.” Book me in.
The authors make a good case that both the world and China only have to gain from the giant collider project. China because “one result would likely be an enhancement of national prestige, with the country becoming a leader in the field of high-energy physics and perhaps eventually becoming the world center for such research. Improved international relations may be the most important consequence of all.” And the rest of the world benefits because, besides preventing thousands of particle physicists from boredom, “civil engineering costs are low in the country – much cheaper than those in many Western countries.”
The book is skillfully written with scientific explanations that are detailed, yet not overly technical, and much space is given to researchers in the field. Nadis and Yau quote whoever might help getting their message across: David Gross, Lisa Randall, Frank Wilczek, Don Lincoln, Don Hopper, Joseph Lykken, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Nathan Seiberg, Martinus Veltman, Steven Weinberg, Gordon Kane, John Ellis – everybody gets a say.
My favorite quote is maybe that by Henry Tye, who argues that the project is a good investment because “the worldwide impact of a collider is much bigger than if the money were put into some other area of science,” since “even if China were to spend more than the United States in some field of science and engineering other than high-energy physics, US professors would still do their research in the US.” This quote sums up the authors’ investigation of whether such a major financial commitment might maybe have a larger payoff were it invested into any other research area.
Don’t get me wrong there, if the Chinese want to build a collider, I think that’s totally great and an awesome contribution to knowledge discovery and the good of humanity, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, amen. But there’s a real discussion here to be had whether building the next bigger ring-thing is where the money should flow or if not putting a radio telescope on the moon or a gravitational wave interferometer in space would bring more bang for the Yuan. Unfortunately, you’re not going to find that discussion in Nadis and Yau’s book.
Aside: The print has smear-stripes.Yes, that puts me in a bad mood.
In summary, this book will come in very handy next time you have to convince a Chinese government official to spend a lot of money on bringing protons up to speed.
[Disclaimer: Free review copy.]