- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (January 13, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374535213
- ISBN-13: 978-0374535216
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe Reprint Edition
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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.) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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"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.
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.