Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Particle Physics Booklet

Yesterday, I discovered a strange-looking package on the floor beneath my letterbox. It wasn't an Amazon package, and I couldn't recall having ordered anything else, so I viewed this unusually-shaped envelope with deep suspicion. There was clearly something thicker than a letter inside, but the package was upside-down, so I couldn't gain any idea of its provenance without turning it over. Could it be a letter-bomb? I'm well-known for my dislike of Coldplay; could it be an IED from a deranged Chris Martin fan? Gingerly, I decided to flip the package over with my left hand; this way, at least I would only lose one arm. Imagine my pleasure and surprise, then, when I flipped the package over and found that it came from CERN! Yes, I'd forgotten that I'd requested the latest copy of the 'Particle Physics Booklet' from them, just the previous week.

pdg.lbl.gov/2006/listings/contents_listings.html

Written in a pacy style, this handy, pocket-sized, 3" by 5" booklet specifies, in 320 pages, all the known properties of all the known elementary particles and subatomic particles. There's even a calendar on the back, so that you can trace the progress of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

This booklet is great for settling arguments in the pub. Did you know, for example, that the mass of the electron is 0.51099892 +/- 0.00000004 MeV?

3 comments:

Neil Forsyth said...

Very droll. But what need is there for such a book to be pocket-sized? No, really. You're not going to take that booklet with you when you go shopping or for a haircut. And in what context would a physicist, in the course of their work, need to know in a hurry, on the hoof, the properties of an elementary particle? So, Gordon, give me one good reason why it is pocket-sized. Go on.

Gordon McCabe said...

Maybe those people responsible for operating the particle accelerators and colliders at CERN do need to consult, on the hoof, the properties of particles. People operating equipment, rather than analysing data from particle detectors after an experimental run, might well need a quick reference.

And then there's the arguments in the pubs around CERN.

Neil Forsyth said...

Alright. Fair enough. Walking into one of those pubs, though, must be like stepping across an event horizon. Although I wouldn't say they have a strong gravitational pull on ordinary punters.