The Perfect Wave: With Neutrinos at the Boundary of Space and Time

Heinrich Päs. Harvard Univ., $26.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-674-72501-0
Päs, a professor of theoretical particle physics, embraces a surfing metaphor and takes readers for a wild ride in pursuit of the neutrino—part ghost, part outlaw, part Holy Grail to theoretical physicists. Wolfgang Pauli first proposed the electrically neutral, massless neutrino in 1930 to explain what happened to the energy lost during beta decay. Päs explains how neutrinos, living up to their ghostly reputation, evaded detection until 1951. Still more mysterious, subsequent experiments revealed that neutrinos have mass, and can also transform themselves into different types—electron, muon, and tau neutrinos—as well as be their own antiparticles. Given that unique mutability, Päs’s enthusiasm is understandable as he shows how neutrinos may be the “key to the universe,” filling in the gaps in the Standard Model of modern physics as well as revealing important cosmological details about the our universe and how it formed—including the secrets of dark matter, dark energy, and perhaps even time travel. From vast laboratories deep underground to the cutting edge Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory nearing completion in frigid Antarctica, Päs reveals the “world of madmen, dreamers, and visionaries” who pursue the neutrino and its place in theoretical physics. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/11/2013
Release date: 02/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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