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The Perfect Wave [Kindle Edition]

Heinrich Päs
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Almost weightless and able to pass through the densest materials with ease, neutrinos may offer answers to questions ranging from relativity and quantum mechanics to more radical theories about dark energy and supersymmetry. Heinrich Päs serves as our fluent guide to a particle world that tests the boundaries of space, time, and human knowledge.

Editorial Reviews


Entertaining and evocative, Päs has written a breezy, readable account of particle physics, especially neutrino physics, in a lucid, lively narrative. (Sandip Pakvasa, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa)

Takes readers for a wild ride in pursuit of the neutrino--part ghost, part outlaw, part Holy Grail to theoretical physicists…From vast laboratories deep underground to the cutting edge Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory nearing completion in frigid Antarctica, Päs reveals the ‘world of madmen, dreamers, and visionaries’ who pursue the neutrino and its place in theoretical physics.” (Publishers Weekly 2013-11-11)

Päs for his part, places neutrinos within the broader context of contemporary high theory and delves deeper into the science. Physics buffs will relish his explanations, and not just of established ideas such a the seesaw mechanism. Neutrinos, Päs explains, may offer a way to probe the extra dimensions of space postulated by some ‘theories of everything.’ The puny particles’ weirdness, it seems, knows no end. (The Economist 2014-02-01)

The ghostly neutrino--a mutable, almost massless particle that can pass through dense substances--stars in this scientific history. Theoretical physicist Heinrich Päs surfs the decades of dazzling research since Wolfgang Pauli first posited the particle in 1930. Päs revisits key theorists such as Ettore Majorana, and lays out the work of groundbreaking labs from Los Alamos in New Mexico, where Fred Reines and Clyde Cowan first detected neutrinos in the early 1950s, to today’s vast IceCube neutrino observatory in Antarctica. (Nature 2014-01-23)

About the Author

Heinrich Päs is Professor of Theoretical Particle Physics at Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for non-scientists who long ago left college physics behind to understand the background and history of the neutrino, including a bevy of Nobel prize winners in Physics and why their work was important. I loved the practical explanations of esoteric quantum physics and symmetry. Who knew string theory could be so interesting ? The author is a German PhD particle physicist who explains much about the academic and real world examples in "big science" experiments like the Large Hadron Collider. Underlying this helps the novice understand what the implications are for the Grand Unified Theory (GUT). There is a lot of personal history here as well starting with surfing in Hawaii and ending with Van Gogh's Starry Night. This is a perfect 2 cross country flight airplane book accompanied by some great tunes on the iPhone. Loved the book - mega thanks to the author and Harvard for publishing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science and speculation. April 16, 2014
The book is a mix of autobiography, scientific history, physics and speculation. Pas begins with his peripatetic academic journey in theoretical physics from student to faculty, through various temporary assignments in universities around the world. He lands in Hawaii, takes up surfing and sees the waves as a metaphor for the action of neutrinos.

Neutrinos are infinitesimally small particles, estimated to be about one millionth the size of an electron, almost devoid of mass, with no electric charge and travel at speed of light or faster. They are generated from stellar explosions, sunbursts or gamma ray eruptions and are limitlessly abundant in the universe with ability to penetrate through any matter regardless of its density. We are bombarded daily with neutrinos without any apparent effect or damage. Sometimes called “ghost” particles, they are almost impossible to detect yet are an indispensable component of the cosmos.

In this book, Päs unveils the “world of madmen, dreamers, and visionaries” who for the past eight decades have investigated the neutrino and attempted to elucidate its role in theoretical physics.
It began in 1930, when the Austrian, Wolfgang Pauli first proposed the neutrino to explain what happened to the energy lost during beta decay. He was enthusiastically supported by Enrico Fermi. But it was not until 1956 when the Standard Model explained the variations of neutrino behavior, and the more recent BSM (Beyond Standard Model) physics of branes, string theory and neutrino oscillation.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin reading February 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found it thin reading. I had expected a reasonable treatment of the neutrino. What I got was a lot of personal history of the author and his colleagues and a pretty minimal discussion of the neutrino itself. I am half way through it and doubt if I will finish it. It is raining pretty hard out right now and the choice is finish reading this book or clean my oven. The oven awaits.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written, concise presentation. March 9, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very well written summary of the state of Nuetrino study today. It includes a few bonuses: an explanation of how extra dimensions might explain quantum entanglement; and the mechanics of how the weak nuclear force creates isotopes. Some of Pas's speculations are pretty spacy but his explanations of parts of string theory are better than average! Well worth the reading time!
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