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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 31, 2013
The neutrino was first postulated in 1930 to help explain radioactive beta decay. The neutrino has had a strange life since then, gaining mass, oscillating, and always hiding from detection. This fascinating book goes through the history of physics, especially focusing on the side of physics that deals with neutrinos. Along the way, the reader is treated to interesting mini-biographies of the many men and women who made physics their lives and pursued the neutrino.

Overall, I must say that I found this to be a surprisingly interesting book. The author did a great job of making his subject interesting and informative, and very reachable. I mean, while I have read such books as Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, I am for the most part a physics neophyte. Nonetheless, I had no problem following the ideas the author went through, as he unfolded the history of our understanding of the neutrino. Also, I must say that I enjoyed his stories of the personalities of the many physicists, some of whom were quite fascinating people indeed.

So, let me just say that if you like a good book on a deep subject, then I do think that you will like this book. I enjoyed it immensely, and was rather sorry when I reached the final page.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
From its suspected existence as theoretically proposed by Wolfgang Pauli as a “desperate remedy” to preserve the law of conservation of energy to ground-breaking research that is currently being conducted, the author recounts the amazing story of the most ghostly of particles known to science: the neutrino.

Along the way, the reader is given a brief overview of the early development of nuclear physics as well as mini-biographical snippets of many of the often-colorful individuals that have been involved over the decades. Also, the reader is treated to how the neutrino’s properties were eventually teased out through theory, observations, e.g., the solar neutrino problem, the insight of brilliant theorists and the ingenuity of gifted experimentalists. Finally, the surprisingly many fields in which the neutrino figures prominently are also explored.

The author’s prose is at once friendly, lively, fast-paced, clear, captivating and widely accessible. The book even includes a glossary that is sure to help the less-informed readers. As an avid science enthusiast, I was already very familiar with several parts of the story described here. However, the book contains much information that I was not aware of, such as some of the different neutrino detection techniques and especially the recently-suggested practical uses for neutrinos. Because of the lack of unexplained jargon, I believe that this is book can be enjoyed any interested individuals no matter what their background.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 17, 2014
Neutrino Hunters - Ray Jayawardhana [505 2014-02-14]

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discovering is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny..." Issac Asimov

I have to admit some trepidation approaching this book. I am very interested in scientific topics particularly as they relate to astronomy and this book was highly recommended in Scientific American. Acquiring a firm understanding of the new physics has always been a challenge for this student. I am not bashful to admit that, so with that said my comments on this book.

The following are some of the topics discussed, which I quote or summarize, that I found of interest, but it is by no means all-inclusive.

· The Ice Cube observatory: The glacial ice at depths of over a mile serves the same purpose as the mirror of a conventional astronomical telescope. 86 steel cable suspended in mile deep drilled holes support 5,160 optical sensors that detect any blue flash of light which may indicated the detection of the weirdest and most elusive subatomic particle the neutrino.
· Neutrinos are elementary particles - have no electrical charge and a tiny mass - they are fundamental building blocks of matter but hardly ever interact with other particles.
· A typical neutrino can travel through a light-year's worth of lead without interacting with any atoms.
· In order to raise the odds of detecting neutrinos scientist have build extremely large detectors like Ice Cube.
· Boris Kayser of the Fermi National Accelerator Lab states: "The Sun produces energy through nuclear reactions on which life on Earth depends, and those reactions could not occur without neutrinos."
· About a hundred trillion neutrinos produced by the Sun's core pass through your body every second of the day and night yet they do no harm or leave no trace.
· Neutrinos travel through the Earth unhindered, like bullets cutting through fog.

I found this book to be informative and entertaining a rare combination for a science book. The author included nuggets of biographical details for the principle scientist mentioned that contributed to my appreciation of the challenges and conflicts they had to overcome.

The usefulness of this book is enhanced by a glossary of terms, a timeline of events, notes and an index. The timeline is almost a summary outline of the text, which I found particularly helpful.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - it is well-written in understandable language, has occasional laugh out loud moments, and introduces a fascinating topic!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
Great and simple book! Lets you understand the basics of the physics involved. Do not expect an in-depth analysis, but a general overview to understand the phenomena that is being addressed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
I really enjoyed reading about the neutrino hunters. It was enjoyable because it described the scientists who imagined the theories and the ones who discovered things about neutrinos by experiment. Especially interesting were the sections about Ettore Majorama and Bruno Pontecorvo. I enthusiastically recommend this book.

Peter McNally
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You’d expect that physicist Ray Jayawardhana would be a fan of neutrinos. He has written _Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe_ (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux). But you wouldn’t expect him to dis the Higgs Boson. Oh, he doesn’t really do that, but the Higgs is far more famous now since it was so diligently searched for and has been found. There is a big difference in the scientific aspects of the two particles, and not just because they have different physical characteristics. Jayawardhana’s readable and intelligent book, aimed at the general reader and unencumbered by any equations except for E = mc^2, shows why neutrinos are so interesting and so worthy of pursuit by the best minds and best budgets of physicists. Lay readers won’t understand everything that is here, but that isn’t the author’s fault. Neutrinos will be understood someday, but no one understands them now, and that’s the fun of the chase.

The chase seems to be over for the Higgs Boson, but the neutrino, although it has been captured, raises big questions. A neutrino is an elementary particle, much tinier than the protons and even the electrons that make up the objects that are more familiar to us. You yourself are being pierced by neutrinos right now, billions of them while you read this sentence. There are lots of them; for every atom in the universe, there are a billion neutrinos. Among the puzzles of neutrinos is that they have that vanishingly small mass, and this simply cannot be accounted for by the current standard model of physics. Much of Jayawardhana’s book is about neutrino detectors, which are quite unlike, say, a Geiger counter. For example, there is IceCube in the Antarctic. It finished construction in 2010, and consists of a grid of vertical strings of thousands of sensors, each of which is looking for a blue flash that indicates a neutrino has had a rare collision with a proton within the ice. The cables go 2,500 meters into the ice; a diagram in the book shows how they dwarf the 324 meter Eiffel Tower. Such detectors are often buried in caves or mines so that they can cut the outside clutter that comes from cosmic rays. The IceCube array has so far detected around thirty neutrinos that came from outside our solar system, the prey it is configured to find. Thirty little neutrinos, and the physicists are exultant about its success.

Jayawardhana has, in a brisk and bright book, summarized much of twentieth century physics, describing the efforts of scientists all around the world over the decades to imagine, understand, and capture a particle that their standard model did not originally acknowledge as existent. He gives capsule biographies of the physicists on the hunt, and they are respectively dull, zany, puritanical, hedonistic, reserved, and eccentric; the funny anecdotes here are welcome in emphasizing the human endeavor of scientific understanding. He reports that one researcher says that there may be practical value in harnessing neutrinos to send signals through the center of the Earth; such signals would get through milliseconds faster than signals that have to go around, and those milliseconds could make a lot of difference in, say, computerized stock trading. More seriously, he shows how understanding neutrinos might mean that we could comprehend how their mass affected the cosmology of the early universe, and why we have matter rather than antimatter. “Given all these exciting prospects,” he writes, “it is no wonder that neutrino hunters are looking forward to the coming decade with great anticipation.” Read the book and you can look forward, too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2014
Most of the books I read have to do with Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science - after all, I can't feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There went my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, except for the ubiquitous E=mc² of Einstein. "RayJay" tells stories (short biographies, anecdotes, history and science) involving the usual, and not so usual, suspects having to do with mathematics and particle physics over the last century and a half. There is sufficient history and background in the book that those of us who last attended science classes nearly half a century ago can understand what is going on without taking refresher courses. The search for the neutrino is told as a multi-generation detective story from Wolfgang Pauli's attempt to account for missing energy in beta decay measurements to today's attempts to find the mass of three (or possibly four?) neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. In addition there is a timeline and a glossary to help keep track of things without having to page back through the book if something is missed. For those who want, there are notes following the glossary for further reading. The information density was sufficient that I felt I was learning but not so dense that I became lost in esoterica.

It's a good, fast paced, almost easy, read. Three sessions on my exercise bicycle, with a little Doctor Who on the TV in the background and I'm finished. Darn. Note to self: get a copy of RayJay's Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets - soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2014
This is an excellent book that captures the exciting hunt for the smallest bits of matter in the Universe. The author has an excellent knowlege of Quantum Physics, the people who matter in the arena and an excellent command of the English language. If you are tired of dull books on physics but would like to know more about particle physics and Quantom Theory you will find this book an excellent read and highly entertaining as you share the authors excitement for discovery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2014
You have to be interested in this stuff generally, because this is no "dummies guide to the subatomic world." But if you're interested in the latest thing in particle physics post-Higgs Boson, this does the job. Wonderful historical read starting with Pauli and Fermi and brings you to the current state of things circa 2013.
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