D'où Venons Nous? Que Sommes Nous? Où Allons Nous?

Questions that will, in one form or the other, stay for a long time, this is not just the title of Gauguin's famous painting, but also constitute some of the central issues of physics... They also figured, for instance, in the title of a survey paper written several years ago by John Ellis of CERN. As he explains in the abstract, "Within particle physics itself, Gauguin's questions may be interpreted as: What is the status of the Standard Model? What physics may lie beyond the Standard Model? What is the 'Theory of Everything'?

Gauguin's questions may also asked within a cosmological context: What were the early stages of the Big Bang? What is the material content of the Universe today? What is the future of the Universe?"

Three volumes that have recently been reprinted for the Indian market deal with these issues. Cosmology by Steven Weinberg (originally from OUP, now from Jyoti Publishers. Rs 995) is a "detailed, self-contained, and comprehensive treatment that it gives to the ideas and formulas that are used and tested in modern cosmological research. It divides into two parts, each of which provides enough material for a one-semester graduate course. The first part deals chiefly with the isotropic and homogeneous average universe; the second part concentrates on the departures from the average universe. Throughout the book the author presents detailed analytic calculations of cosmological phenomena, rather than just report results obtained elsewhere by numerical computation. The book is up to date, and gives detailed accounts of topics such as recombination, microwave background polarization, leptogenesis, gravitational lensing, structure formation, and multifield inflation, that are usually treated superficially if at all in treatises on cosmology. Copious references to current research literature are supplied. Appendices include a brief introduction to general relativity, and a detailed derivation of the Boltzmann equation for photons and neutrinos used in calculations of cosmological evolution."

Among the various reviews available on the net, here is one from Robert Kirshner of Harvard University: This book tackles the main events of today's cosmology: cosmic acceleration observed with supernovae, the exquisite structure of the cosmic microwave background, and the evidence for dark matter. Weinberg pays close attention to the historical development and summarizes the observations with care. He brings deep knowledge of the underlying physics and weaves these threads together into a rich text that will be of great value to astronomers and physicists. The first half of this book is a wonderful introduction to cosmology, suitable for a graduate course or for someone coming into the field from a neighboring region of the scientific forest. The second half is an original development of the theory for the growth of inhomogeneities in the Universe. Everyone who works on cosmology will find something to learn in this book.

The next title in question is Quantum Field Theory by Ryder (Rs 795, originally from CUP) which is a "modern introduction to the ideas and techniques of quantum field theory. After a brief overview of particle physics and a survey of relativistic wave equations and Lagrangian methods, the author develops the quantum theory of scalar and spinor fields, and then of gauge fields. The emphasis throughout is on functional methods, which have played a large part in modern field theory. The book concludes with a brief survey of "topological" objects in field theory and, new to this edition, a chapter devoted to supersymmetry. ... This text develops the quantum theory of scalar and spinor fields, and then of gauge fields. The emphasis throughout is on functional methods, which have played a large part in modern field theory."

And finally, the monumental Quantum Theory of Fields also by Steven Weinberg, in three volumes. Priced at an affordable Rs 3995, this set is for the serious student of field theory (and there is no dearth of them in India, one hopes). "A self-contained, comprehensive, and up-to-date introduction to quantum field theory from [Nobel Laureate] Steven Weinberg. The first volume introduces the foundations of quantum field theory, the second volume examines modern applications, and finally the third volume presents supersymmetry, an area of theoretical physics likely to be at the centre of progress in the physics of elementary particles and gravitation. The development is fresh and logical throughout, with each step carefully motivated by what has gone before. The presentation of modern mathematical methods is throughout interwoven with accounts of applications in both elementary particle and condensed matter physics. The three volumes contain much original material, and are peppered with examples and insights drawn from the author's experience as a leader of elementary particle research."

All available by writing in to us. And in our Physics section.