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The story of the almost invisible particle,
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This review is from: Neutrino (Hardcover)
Neutrino by Frank Close, Oxford, 2010, 192 ff.
The story of the almost invisible particle
By Howard Jones
`All in all, there are more neutrinos [in the universe] than any other particle' (p.2): it sounds as though we ought to know a bit more about them. This is another in a series of books on quantum physics written by Frank Close, Emeritus Fellow in Physics at the University of Oxford . Close has spent his research career investigating and teaching the physics of subatomic particles and his writing is to be commended for its accessibility by the non-specialist, so we would be hard pressed to find a better authority on the subject of neutrinos.
The details here however are a bit more specialised than in Close's earlier books. The history of the discovery of neutrinos is as fascinating as that for antimatter, the subject of an earlier short monograph by Close. It shows the importance of chance or fate in being at the right place at the right time, but also the need for a prepared mind - a mind that is alert and open to new discoveries. But the background to the discovery of the neutrino needed an understanding of the nature of other subatomic particles first, as explained here by Close, so had to wait until the discovery of the neutron.
The developmental work on neutrinos involved a study of the nature of the sun's energy source, and even of the age of the Earth in finding theoretical evidence to back up the geological and evolutionary data suggesting an age of many millions rather than just thousands of years. The story of the role of one of the main players, Bruno Pontecorvo, is itself quite fascinating, especially to those of us who remember him as an Italian immigrant to Britain who defected to the Soviet Union around 1950. Establishing the existence of neutrinos (and their mirror-partners, antineutrinos) and methods to create and detect them almost at will has in fact given rise to the whole new sub-discipline of neutrino astronomy which enables us to get glimpses into the nature of distant galaxies. It has also given physicists a tool with which to investigate the `weak force', one of the four forces of nature and the most difficult to study.
This is a book for readers interested in modern particle physics and astronomy or in the history of science and the personalities involved.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.
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