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.
In the first chapters, Pas strongly suggests that psychedelic drugs were a major influence in the development of quantum physics and its progenitors, from the Ancient Greek cult of Eleusis, Plato’s philosophy and Democritus’ atomism to Heisenberg & Weizsacker quantum mechanics, Nietzsche’s perspectives and Hugh Everett’s theory of parallel universe/multiverse. He describes his own experience with magic mushrooms. “Physics is like surfing. Or like an LSD trip.”
The middle chapters deal with hard science and less esoterica; but the end of the book returns to speculative philosophy.
In the preface Pas declares: “Warning up front! The book deals with established scientific insights and with wild speculations…” He was not exaggerating.
Too much weird science and speculation fueled by psychedelic drugs and fantastic ideas, like using neutrinos to time travel, bordered on science fiction. The conclusion that a multiverse is an answer to rationalistic science places this book outside the margins of reality.
Interested readers should also consider “Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” by Jayawardhana, Ray