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le 10 juin 2011
One of the most interesting and most intellectually far-reaching areas of modern Physics is Particle Physics. No other area of Physics has as conceptually profound implications for our understanding of how the world works on the very fundamental level, and nowhere else have the experiments been as monumental and imposing. And yet, particle Physics is rarely if ever taught in undergraduate Physics curriculum. The reason often given for this is that mathematical sophistication required for fully understanding this subject is far beyond the capability of most undergraduates. However, if done properly, the mathematical sophistication need not be beyond what is required in an upper level Electricity and Magnetism or Quantum Mechanics courses. To the contrary - the most important results in Particle Physics can be obtained by mathematical means that are not nearly as demanding as those in those other two upper level Physics courses. A perfect example of this are the textbooks by David Griffiths. He has been well known to generations of Physics students who had used his Electricity and Magnetism or Quantum Mechanics textbooks. These textbooks have become a de-facto standard for teaching those subjects. These textbooks are also known for many very demanding problems that require many, many pages of mathematical manipulation. And yet, most of these manipulations are much harder than anything you'll encounter in Griffiths' "Introduction to Elementary particles." There is still a collection of worked-out examples, but nowhere nearly at the level of what one finds in his other books. The presentation is characteristically accessible and pedagogical. A considerable amount of space is devoted to historical and experimental considerations, and this textbook also serves as a useful history of the development of particle Physics.
The second edition greatly streamlines some presentations and introduces a few new topics that have been of interest in particle Physics in recent decades - most notably the neutrino oscillations. The chapter on future developments is mostly descriptive, and mercifully short on certain topics that have enjoyed a lot of attention lately but have been woefully short on experimental verifications, such as supersymmetry and string theory. In the end we are left off with a picture of current understanding of particle Physics that shows this field of research both as a tremendous success and still a work in progress. Hopefully in the upcoming decades we'll be able to fill in many of the holes and come up with a more streamlined understanding of nature at the most fundamental level. Until then, textbooks like this one will be the best and surest way of getting the basic facts about the nature of elementary particles.