During the past dozen years, a revolution has occurred in the prevailing
view of particle physics. It is now generally believed that a fundamental
description of subnuclear physics must be based upon the idea that
strongly interacting particles (hadrons) are composed of quarks.
Together with leptons, such as the electron and neutrino, and a variety
of force particles, including the mediator of electromagnetism called
the photon, quarks seem to be the elementary particles—at least at the
present limits of resolution.
The support for this new point of view is multifarious and impressive. It
derives from the familial patterns of hadrons, the experimental evidence
for pointlike constituents within hadrons, the discovery of the
atomic-like spectra of the heavy mesons J/ψ and Υ, the successful prediction of charm, and the triumph of the
Weinberg-Salam model, with its implication of weak neutral currents.
According to optimists, a grand synthesis of the strong, weak, and
electromagnetic interactions is already at hand. A number of experiments
are being mounted to search for the proton instability implied by specific grand unified theories. Some physicists with an appreciation for
history, troubled by the proliferation of "fundamental" constituents,
now are investigating the possibility that quarks and leptons may
themselves be composite.
In view of this paradigm, the appearance of a book for students of particle physics that mentions quarks only
in passing is somewhat surprising. While I regard Pilkuhn's selection of
topics as excessively reactionary, it is not without merit. It is
important for students to become familiar with a broad range of the
phenomena that are the concern of high energy physics. Many aspects of
these phenomena cannot be described economically on the constituent
level, although systematics frequently can be interpreted neatly in
terms of quarks. Beyond this, the author seems to have in mind a wider
audience than incipient particle physicists, including students of
intermediate energy and classical nuclear physics. The reader of
Relativistic Particle Physics will indeed gain an awareness of the general
phenomenology of particle physics but will have a somewhat dated
impression of what constitutes current theoretical and experimental
The strong point of the book is its treatment of nonstandard textbook top
ics in applied relativistic quantum mechanics. The classical
applications are to problems in atomic structure, but these have served as
prototypes for recent descriptions of hadron masses. Generally speaking,
techniques are thoroughly explained but specific experimental facts are
described only briefly. The discussion of the Weinberg-Salam model is
quite condensed. The subtleties of spontaneous symmetry breaking are not
adequately explained, and no comparison is made with data. In contrast,
the chapters on hadron-hadron scattering contain good introductions to a
number of useful methods.
For use as a textbook, Relativistic Particle Physics would be improved by
the addition of sets of problems and by the inclusion in the bibliography
of more review articles or summer school lectures that contain
pedagogical discussions of specific topics. Several criticisms must be
directed to the publisher. To conserve space, equations have been set in a
most annoying format: 3/8π-12-1/2 is a typical infelicity. Many of the
figures are sloppily executed, the proofreading is less than meticulous,
and the style of the bibliography is inconsistent.
Relativistic Particle Physics is devoted to techniques of lasting
interest. Although its viewpoint is not thoroughly modern, it provides a
serviceable introduction to high energy physics on the graduate level,
and individual sections may be read profitably by researchers.
Chris Quigg is a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator
Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois 60510.