cover image Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist

Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist

Luis W. Alvarez. Basic Books, $19.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-465-00115-6

This is a richly absorbing autobiography by the physicist whose hydrogen bubble-chamber experiments won him the 1968 Nobel Prize in his field. Alvarez launches his ""adventures'' with a gripping description of his participation in (via an observation plane) the Enola Gay's historic mission over Hiroshima in 1945. Personally as well as scientifically forthright and plainspoken, he holds the reader with the story of his life as a scientist, much of the time at Berkeley, Calif., working with such men as Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence and Enrico Fermi. Central to this account is the picture of life at Los Alamos climaxed by the first A-bomb test in 1945. But subsequent episodes describing work in small-particle physics, capped by a recent switch to ``impact'' theory that explains the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago, are equal highlights. Photos. (April 22)