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The Perfect Wave: With Neutrinos at the Boundary of Space and Time Hardcover – 7 Feb 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (7 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674725018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674725010
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 450,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Entertaining and evocative, Pas has written a breezy, readable account of particle physics, especially neutrino physics, in a lucid, lively narrative.--Sandip Pakvasa, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa"

Some science books are good because they tell you a lot about science. Some are good because they present their examples and argument in very well written prose. A few do both. The Perfect Wave" is one of the few I can highly recommend The Perfect Wave" as a pleasant and provocative way to gain insight into the way physicists think, and into the way the universe (probably) works.--John Gribbin"Wall Street Journal" (04/15/2014)"

Written by one of the world s leading experts in the field Heinrich Pas book guides the reader through some difficult territory, covering the historical and philosophical developments that led to our understanding of the neutrino today. It is a peculiar route that navigates via such topics as the ancient Greek and magic mushrooms. Plus of course the obligatory cat that is simultaneously alive and dead Though this book is written in simple language, don t expect an easy read. There are some highly challenging ideas to get your head around--but it is worth making the effort.--Paul Sutherland"BBC Sky at Night" (09/01/2014)"

About the Author

Heinrich Pas is Professor of Theoretical Particle Physics at Technische Universitat Dortmund, Germany.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This a deceptively short book but it provides an excellent and as clear account as possible of a subject that becomes increasingly more difficult for a layman to conceptualise.The author is unafraid of recounting the historical (including ancient Greek) origins of many of the most intractable questions of the nature of the physical world. Also his rapid but lucid accounts of the history of developments of ideas of nuclear structure,quantum mechanics, relativity and string theory are marked by clear, uncluttered descriptions. At some points the lay reader might become confused (for example as in the definition is 'isospin' of a particle) but there is a continuous buildup of all-inclusive concepts of Symmetry and Supersymmetry. This a superb educational book suitable for both general readership as well as a more specialised students. The text is enlivened by anecdotes featuring some Nobel winners as well as enlightened others. However I think Mr Pas's attitude to Professor Higgs of the eponymous boson is somewhat condescending. Altogether it is a valuable addition to the general understanding of what for many people are at times rather inscrutable matters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a really interesting book that dispels the myths of the standard model with regards to Neutrino physics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for history of the Neutrino and modern particle physics for non-scientists 2 Mar. 2014
By Bob Wilmes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for non-scientists who long ago left college physics behind to understand the background and history of the neutrino, including a bevy of Nobel prize winners in Physics and why their work was important. I loved the practical explanations of esoteric quantum physics and symmetry. Who knew string theory could be so interesting ? The author is a German PhD particle physicist who explains much about the academic and real world examples in "big science" experiments like the Large Hadron Collider. Underlying this helps the novice understand what the implications are for the Grand Unified Theory (GUT). There is a lot of personal history here as well starting with surfing in Hawaii and ending with Van Gogh's Starry Night. This is a perfect 2 cross country flight airplane book accompanied by some great tunes on the iPhone. Loved the book - mega thanks to the author and Harvard for publishing.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science and speculation. 17 April 2014
By SInohey - Published on Amazon.com
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
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin reading 15 Feb. 2014
By Ekaterina Puffini - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found it thin reading. I had expected a reasonable treatment of the neutrino. What I got was a lot of personal history of the author and his colleagues and a pretty minimal discussion of the neutrino itself. I am half way through it and doubt if I will finish it. It is raining pretty hard out right now and the choice is finish reading this book or clean my oven. The oven awaits.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is a very scattered and disorganized read about the current state of particle physics. 22 Jun. 2014
By Frederic Van Biene - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unless you are involved on a day-to-day basis in the world of particle physics experiments and explorations, this book will make very little sense to you. The WSJ review was very misleading; this book is not written for the lay reader who wants an understandable
overview of current understandings of light theory (wave and particle) and relativity.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written, concise presentation. 9 Mar. 2014
By H. D. Sosnoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very well written summary of the state of Nuetrino study today. It includes a few bonuses: an explanation of how extra dimensions might explain quantum entanglement; and the mechanics of how the weak nuclear force creates isotopes. Some of Pas's speculations are pretty spacy but his explanations of parts of string theory are better than average! Well worth the reading time!
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