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Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe Hardcover – December 10, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While the Higgs boson has dominated recent physics news, astrophysicist Jayawardhana (Strange New Worlds) directs attention toward neutrinos, the €œpathologically shy€ elementary particles that offer a window into supernovas and may help answer questions about antimatter, dark matter, dark energy, and the early universe. With no electric charge and very little mass, neutrinos seldom interact with matter, for the most part passing untouched through the Earth itself; detection requires looking for particles created in the wake of the scant interactions that do occur. With clarity and wry humor, Jayawardhana relates how Wolfgang Pauli €œinvented€ the neutrino to explain where missing energy went during beta decay, then later bet a case of champagne that it would never be detected experimentally. After neutrinos were finally observed for the first time in 1956, scientists expanded the hunt from Earth to space, examining the rays emitted by the Sun. From deep underground in South Dakota's Homestake Gold Mine to Antarctica's IceCube, currently the world's largest neutrino detector, Jayawardhana vividly illuminates both the particle that has €œbaffled and surprised€ scientists, and the researchers who hunt it. Agent: John Pearce, Westwood Creative Artists. (Dec.)

From Booklist

When physicist Boris Kayser declares, “If neutrinos did not exist, we would not be here,” he identifies a compellingly immediate reason for investigating these mysterious subatomic particles. But as Jayawardhana teases out the tangled history of neutrino investigations, readers learn of many other reasons that scientists have expended tremendous energy pursuing these elusive gremlins. First glimpsed as a conceptual possibility by theoretical pioneers Pauli and Fermi, the neutrino has tantalized the scientists seeking to verify its existence, repeatedly forcing them to redesign their observational technology and realign their paradigmatic models. Readers visit a neutrino-detector buried deep in a South Dakota mine and retrace the daring thinking that labeled neutrinos of different flavors. Readers also contemplate the exciting inquiries of researchers coaxing from the neutrino the secrets of a big bang yielding a curious matter/anti-matter imbalance and of dying stars erupting in supernovas. Neutrino work even promises technologies for intergalactic communication. A tale of revolutionary science and of the colorful personalities of those who did it—must-reading for armchair physicists! --Bryce Christensen
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (December 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374220638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374220631
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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