At the Root of Things: The Subatomic World, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

At the Root of Things

The Subatomic World, 1st Edition

By Palash Baran Pal

CRC Press

215 pages | 29 B/W Illus.

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At the Root of Things: The Subatomic World is a journey into the world of elementary particles—the basic constituents of all matter in the universe—and the nature of the interactions among them.

The book begins with a summary of pre-quantum physics and later tackles quantum physics, which is essential for the study of elementary particles. The book discusses the emergence of quantum theory from studies in heat radiation and the photoelectric effect as well as developments that led to the concept of duality between particles and waves. Also discussed is how quantum theory helped to better understand the structure of atoms and the discovery of particles that were not constituents of atoms, such as the positron and the muon.

Dozens of particles that were discovered experimentally in the 1950s and the 1960s are described along with fundamental particles—quarks and leptons. The book concludes with a discussion on fundamental interactions, the basic nature of quantum theories surrounding these interactions, and a discussion of how these interactions might be unified.

At the Root of Things: The Subatomic World iswritten in non-technical language making it accessible to a broad audience. It helps outsiders understand the subject in a non-mathematical manner and inspires them to learn more about this interesting field.


"… a good introduction to particle physics for laypeople. … Pal excels at presenting difficult concepts of symmetry and quantum physics in an easy-to-understand manner without resorting to difficult mathematical equations. He succeeds in explaining esoteric mathematical concepts by using examples from everyday life that can be understood by anyone. The writing is lucid and entertaining, and the text’s larger than usual font is easy on the eyes. … What stands out is the insight that the book provides into how theories in science are developed and how much painstaking effort and hard work go into solving the mysteries of the universe and coming up with the answers that people sometimes take for granted. Summing Up: Recommended."

CHOICE, December 2015

Table of Contents

Conservation Laws


Conservation of Momentum

Conservation of Angular Momentum

Conservation of Electric Charge

The Beginning of Chemistry

Conservation of Energy

The Danger

The Synthesis


Noether’s Theorem

Waves And Particles

From Democritus to Dalton

Newton, Huygens

Young, Fresnel


Hertz, Lenard



Bose, Bohr

de Broglie

Jekyll, Hyde

Insider’s Story of The Atomland










In Short

Smaller than the Atom





Rabi’s question

Lawrence’s legacy

Gell-Mann, Zweig


Richter, Ting, Lederman

An Elementary Consideration

Destination Unification

Behind the Apparent

Beyond the Apparent

Give and Take

The Symmetries

Old Wine in a New Bottle

The "Colors"

The Pictorial Description

Subtle is the Lord

The Unifying Hand

Untied Knots, Unexplored Horizons

Suggested Reading


About the Author

Palash B Pal is a senior professor at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata. He was awarded a PhD from the Carnegie-Mellon University. Dr. Pal’s research interests are in the area of particle physics. He has written various academic books, as well as popular-level books, and received the "Rabindra Smriti Puroskar" ("Rabindranath Tagore memorial prize") from the Government of West Bengal. He has authored nearly 100 academic papers.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Nuclear Physics
SCIENCE / Physics