The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science


By Ian Sample

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  1. Trade Paperback (Revised) $21.99
  2. ebook (Revised) $10.99

The biggest science story of our time, Massive spans four decades, weaving together the personal narratives and international rivalries behind the search for the “God” particle, or Higgs boson. A story of grand ambition, intense competition, clashing egos, and occasionally spectacular failures, Massive is the first book that reveals the science, culture, and politics behind the biggest unanswered question in modern physics — what gives things mass?

Drawing upon his unprecedented access to Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, award-winning science writer Ian Sample chronicles the multinational and multibillion-dollar quest to solve the mystery of mass. For scientists, to find the God particle is to finally understand the origin of mass, and until now, the story of their search has never been told.
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  • Physics World
    “The grand narrative in Ian Sample's book sweeps from the earliest speculations on the nature of matter; through the Second World War and the dawn of nuclear weapons; the paranoia of the Cold War (during which science was seen as a source of national security); rival efforts by the US and Europe to lead the world in times of peace; and the eventual emergence of worldwide scientific co-operation....  Massive carries the reader through the epic using individual episodes from the lives of some of the participants.”

    New York Journal of Books
    Massive is a tale of search and of discovery, of the hunt for a particle of high mass and very short lifespan called the Higgs Boson.... Go. Read. Enjoy.”

    Jo Marchant, author of Decoding the Heavens
    “[Massive] weaves the physics into a compelling human story; it's a science book that reads like a novel... [and] the best discussion I've read of what it will mean if they do finally manage to make the Higgs boson, and what finding it might tell us about the nature of the universe.”
  • The Guardian (UK)
    “Sample's story of “how the universe got its mass” is told through the life and science of Higgs. The result is a compelling work of popular science, full of mind-boggling ideas and a real sense of the excitement of scientific discovery.”

    “Science journalist Sample does an excellent job of capturing the history of the subject and the vivid personalities of some of the most famous living physicists.... Massive is an excellent nontechnical introduction to the history of modern particle physics right up to the present.... Highly recommended.”

    Physics Today
    “A quick and enticing read...Massive provides an accessible introduction to the physics of this, the LHC era.”

    The Guardian
    “A gripping account of… the story of how the [Higgs boson] theory, first proposed in 1964, moved from being a curiosity of dubious relevance to the centre stage of fundamental physics today.... So read this book, then watch the final stages of this particular scientific quest play out over the coming months and years.”
  • CultureLab,
    “A whirlwind tour of the discoveries that first revealed the subatomic world.... Like any good book, the excitement in Massive builds, culminating with the frenzied Higgs hunt at the end of LEP's run and more recently at the Tevatron at Fermilab in the US — both racing against time to bag the revered particle.”

    Stephen Curry, Reciprocal Space Blog on
    “[An] entertaining and breathless read: Sample whizzes through the story, tracking the progress from Higgs' first inkling of an idea back in the early sixties right up to the present day, which sees the particle physics community poised on the verge of discovery, waiting to see if the Higgs' boson—the eponymous 'God particle'—will finally flash into existence as the LHC is ramped up to full power.”

    Dara O'Briain, New Scientist
    “[T]his was my holiday page-turner: a clear and engrossing description of the physics of the Higgs boson (with surrounding weirdness), combined with a breathless account of the leap-frogging race for its discovery.”

    The Midwest Book Review
    “The definition of the Higgs boson and how it gives everything mass, and why it's important, comes alive for readers with little prior science background. Recommended for general-interest and science collections alike!”
  • Kirkus Reviews
    “Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines.... Quality science journalism.”

    Publishers Weekly
    “[A] roller-coaster of a tale. Sample keeps the physics accessible, but the real pleasure is in the personalities and drama he reveals behind the hunt for one of the most elusive objects in the universe.” 

    Kirkus Reviews
    “Lively popular account of late-20th-century physics, physicists and their machines.... Quality science journalism."

    Wall Street Journal
    “Ian Sample ... shows a keen eye for the personal equation even while narrating large swatches of physics history.... Mr. Sample's exciting, easy-to-read narrative captures the collaboration, and competition, among the theorists who became involved in the search [for the Higgs particle] over the decades.”
  • Graham Farmelo, Guardian (London)
    “[Peter] Higgs himself has proved almost as elusive as his eponymous particle. Until now. Ian Sample.... persevered long enough to secure an interview with him, and the results are among the highlights of Massive, a lively account of the genesis of both the LHC and its most famous particulate quarry.... Sample has interviewed quite a few other leading scientists, too, and proves adept at prising insights from them.... We are kept hooked by its fine reportage, which makes clear the sheer achievement of the scientists and engineers who have built the LHC, the most complex machine ever made in the service of pure science. We learn, too, of the many theoretical concepts that will be probed by it.”

    Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here
    “When the Higgs boson is discovered, it will be front page news, and this is the book that sets the stage. Ian Sample mixes cutting-edge science with behind-the-scenes stories to paint a compelling picture of one of modern science's greatest quests.”

    “Sample describes the competition and politics behind the experiments that have sought the eponymous boson.... He relates amusing anecdotes... [and] spins a good yarn.... To get a sense of the sociology and politics of high-energy physics, Massive is a good place to start.”

On Sale
Jan 8, 2013
Page Count
304 pages
Basic Books

Ian Sample

About the Author

Ian Sample is a science correspondent at the Guardian, and before that at New Scientist. He holds a PhD in biomedical science and was named investigative journalist of the year in 2005 by the Association of British Science Writers. He lives in London.

Learn more about this author