Particle physics comes alive on a tablet
The physicist and best-selling author Frank Close has joined forces with Michael Marten – founder of the Science Photo Library (SPL) – and CERN Courier editor Christine Sutton to create a new app about particle physics. Called The Particles, the app is billed as an introduction to the Standard Model and is aimed at a wide audience that includes professional physicists, students and even amateur enthusiasts.
The app organizes particles by type, presenting them as slices in an interactive pie chart. Click on a particle type – say leptons – and you get a list of leptons. Click again on the tau particle and a description of the particle and how and when it was discovered appears. A concise description of the particle’s properties such as spin, mass, etc, is also available behind a data tab.
The app is illustrated using pictures from the SPL and Michael Marten has done a great job of selecting appropriate images. The sections on many particles are illustrated using actual data such as bubble chamber images or collision reconstructions. Rather than being just eye candy, these data are often accompanied by comprehensive captions describing exactly what is being detected and how.
Not surprisingly, the app has a section devoted to the Higgs boson, which SPL says will be updated as new information arrives from the Large Hadron Collider. The Higgs section includes an animation of a collision event at the ATLAS detector as well as information on the most important decay channels of the Higgs particle.
Beyond particles, the app also has brief biographies of important particle physicists as well as information about colliders and experiments. The trio take a somewhat personal approach to the biographies – correcting what they perceive as injustices. In the entry for Satyendra Bose, the app points out that although the Indian physicist didn’t win a Nobel prize for his pioneering work on Bose–Einstein statistics, several prizes have been since been awarded to others working in that field.
Any complaints? An Android version would be great for my phone. The app is available for the Apple iPad, Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface.