ISBN: 9781615193011
Published: March 8, 2016
Price: $15.95 US / $23.95 CAN
Paperback: 320 pages
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Most Wanted Particle
The Inside Story of the Hunt for the Higgs, the Heart of the Future of Physics
Foreword by Lisa Randall

Now in paperback: the “vivid account of what the process of discovery was really like for an insider.”—Peter Higgs

Particle physics as we know it depends on the Higgs boson: It’s the missing link between the birth of our universe—as a sea of tiny, massless particles—and the tangible world we live in today. But for more than 50 years, scientists wondered: Does it exist?

Physicist Jon Butterworth was at the frontlines of the hunt for the Higgs at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider—perhaps the most ambitious experiment in history. In Most Wanted Particle, he gives us the first inside account of that uncertain time, when an entire field hinged on a single particle, and life at the cutting edge of science meant media scrutiny, late-night pub debates, dispiriting false starts in the face of intense pressure, and countless hours at the collider itself. As Butterworth explains, our first glimpse of the elusive Higgs brings us a giant step closer to understanding the universe—and points the way to an entirely new kind of physics.

“Butterworth is an insider’s insider. His narrative seethes with insights on the project’s science, technology and ‘tribes,’ as well as his personal (and often amusing) journey as a frontier physicist.”—Nature

“Butterworth ranges far beyond billiards to find ordinary-world comparisons that clarify abstruse scientific concepts. . . . Still, despite all of his colorful simplifying metaphors, Butterworth challenges his readers with real high-level science, taking them deep enough into the Standard Model of theoretical subatomic physics to explain why researchers around the globe monitor the reports from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider with anxious expectation—their most fundamental assumptions about the universe hanging in the balance.”—Booklist, starred review

“The author’s real achievement is in making experimental topics such as jet algorithms, cross-sections, calorimeters, and standard deviation interesting and even exciting. [Butterworth] also does an excellent job of portraying the culture of particle physics and the life of a researcher in the field. . . . Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.”—Choice

“Most of the existing popular accounts of the events leading up to the July 2012 discovery claim at CERN are written from a theoretical perspective by outsiders. Jon Butterworth is an experimentalist and is the first to give a vivid account of what the process of discovery was really like for an insider.”
Peter Higgs, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics

“The story of the search for the Higgs boson is so edge-of-your-seat exciting that it practically tells itself—but still, why not get the story from someone who was there for every step along the way? Jon Butterworth is a talented writer and a world expert in the physics, and his book is hard to put down.”
Sean Carroll, physicist at Caltech and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

“If you want to know why the discovery of the Higgs boson matters, read this book!”
Brian Cox, author of Why Does E=mc2?

“A fascinating inside perspective of the discovery of the Higgs boson . . . combined with intimate details about the life of a high-powered physicist and some lovely explanations of the physics.”—New Scientist

“The politics, excitement, and sheer intellectual adventure of discovery . . . from someone who was actually there!”
Jim Al-Khalili, author of Quantum

“A smashing journey.”—Physics World

“If you met Jon Butterworth in a pub—which, judging from the many anecdotes in Most Wanted Particle, is a non-trivial probability—his is the voice you’d like to hear, this is the tale you’d want him to tell: a breezy recounting of the discovery of the Higgs boson that turns out to be both an accessible primer on particle physics and a lively look at behind-the-scenes Big Science.”
Richard Panek, author of The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

“Like The Lord of the Rings, Most Wanted Particle takes readers on a long path with many moments of peril and uncertainty to reach the triumphant discovery of the Higgs Boson. It is a great chronicle of a part of the endless chain of progress in science at the LHC.”
Jim Gates, University System of Maryland Regents Professor of Physics

“An excellent, accessible guide to one of science’s greatest discoveries . . . vivid insights into the doing of science, including the customs of various scientific tribes at CERN.”—Sunday Times

An Observer Top Ten Science and Technology book

“Unlocks the holy grail of combining entertainment and understanding.” —PFILM

“Riveting! Gonzo journalism but in the entrails of experimental particle physics.”
Pedro G. Ferreira, author of The Perfect Theory

“[A] charming, enlightening bulletin from one of the most exciting fields of human endeavor.” —Guardian

“If you’re remotely curious about the universe, read this.”
Steven Thompson of, a theoretical physics blog
Books by Jon Butterworth

Jon Butterworth, author of Most Wanted Particle, is one of the leading physicists on the Large Hadron Collider and is head of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. He writes the popular Life and Physics blog for the Guardian and has written articles for a range of publications including the Guardian and New Scientist. He divides his time between London and Geneva, Switzerland.