The History and Mystery of Mass

If you ever wondered what the Higgs Boson particle was and why it caused so much excitement then this book on Mass by Jim Baggott is a worthwhile read. Baggott is a writer who manages to bring some clarity to the very complex subject of Quantum Physics. The book takes a tour through the history of Mass. From Greek philosophers to Newton, Einstein and modern day quantum discoveries and theories. It shows how mass was regarded in the past and how it is now viewed through a quantum lens. The relationship of Mass with energy is explored and leads to some thought provoking conclusions. I’ve read a few books on Quantum physics including this one by Carlo Rovelli which focuses on an equally mysterious area of Time. There is a similar theme in this book with the philosophical underpinnings investigated as much as the technical details. As an explanation and history of quantum physics, this succeeds well. It provides an overview at a level that doesn’t require much background knowledge and there are helpful summaries of each chapter to review the key learnings.

The Higgs Boson is sometimes referred to as the ‘God particle’ and it’s relevance in Mass become clear in this book. As you work your way through an unravelling of the atom, all the way from neutrons, protons and down to quarks, you find out that things become surprising at the quantum level. In fact the concept of matter itself seems to transform into fields and energy. The implications to our reality are mind blowing. I was left with many questions by the end. But then the whole field of Quantum leaves you that way and what makes it such a fascinating mystery.

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