Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: Neutrino Hunters by Ray Jayawardhana

ISBN: 0374220638
Published: December 10th, 2013
Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Read from September 14th to 17th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Winner of the Canadian Science Writers Association 2014 Science in Society Book Award
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Book of the Season
A Book to Watch Out For, The New Yorker's Page-Turner Blog
A Los Angeles Times Gift Guide Selection
One of the Best Physics Books of 2013, Cocktail Party Physics Blog, Scientific American
Detective thriller meets astrophysics in this adventure into neutrinos and the scientists who pursue them
The incredibly small bits of matter we call neutrinos may hold the secret to why antimatter is so rare, how mighty stars explode as supernovae, what the universe was like just seconds after the big bang, and even the inner workings of our own planet.
For more than eighty years, adventurous minds from around the world have been chasing these ghostly particles, trillions of which pass through our bodies every second. Extremely elusive and difficult to pin down, neutrinos are not unlike the brilliant and eccentric scientists who doggedly pursue them.
In Neutrino Hunters, the renowned astrophysicist and award-winning writer Ray Jayawardhana takes us on a thrilling journey into the shadowy world of neutrinos and the colorful lives of those who seek them. Demystifying particle science along the way, Jayawardhana tells a detective story with cosmic implications--interweaving tales of the sharp-witted theorist Wolfgang Pauli; the troubled genius Ettore Majorana; the harbinger of the atomic age Enrico Fermi; the notorious Cold War defector Bruno Pontecorvo; and the dynamic dream team of Marie and Pierre Curie. Then there are the scientists of today who have caught the neutrino bug, and whose experimental investigations stretch from a working nickel mine in Ontario to a long tunnel through a mountain in central Italy, from a nuclear waste site in New Mexico to a bay on the South China Sea, and from Olympic-size pools deep underground to a gigantic cube of Antarctic ice--called, naturally, IceCube.
As Jayawardhana recounts a captivating saga of scientific discovery and celebrates a glorious human quest, he reveals why the next decade of neutrino hunting will redefine how we think about physics, cosmology, and our lives on Earth.


This book is essentially the story of our understanding of neutrinos. Various people who were important in helping make new discoveries and learning new things are all included. I think the best way to describe it is that this book is a history of sorts of how we've come to understand what we do about neutrinos. Then there's some science mixed in to help you understand what exactly it is they're discovering as well. That being said, the science in the book is always written about in easy to understand ways. I imagine most people wouldn't have trouble grasping what's in the book, and I'd label the book a history of these discoveries before I would label it a scientific explanation of neutrinos.

I really enjoyed this book. It was one of those things that left me in amazement of the universe, and I love stuff like that. While I had enough of an understanding of neutrinos before that I don't think I learned a ton on the science front in this book (although I'd say I learned some), I had no knowledge of most of the scientists written about in this book. Of the events written about in the book, the only ones that I knew about at all really were the ones that I've lived through. It's fascinating to me to see how we managed to make it to where we are today in our understanding.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the history neutrino hunting and what we still have to learn today. This book is written in a very engaging way, and I think anyone with an interest in the subject would enjoy it.

I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

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