Monday, December 23, 2013

"Neutrino" by Frank Close

On a recommendation from Dan Satterfield, I picked up "Neutrino" by Frank Close, hoping to get an idea of what a neutrino actually is.  I was not disappointed.

I always enjoy a historical narrative of what leads to a given discovery.  Most of the book is that story as it unfolded for the neutrino particle, from its imagined existence to its discovery to its acceptance.

I never quite understood how a particle could be "predicted" by a theory.  Frank explains early on how a hypothesis under consideration prompted the need for another piece, a new and unknown piece, one that seemed to correctly explain the overall picture if that piece is included.  Thus, it is predicted.  Then came figuring out how to prove it did exist after all.

The amount of effort and time involved in finding the neutrino came across to me as if it was the '60s space program condensed into a much smaller group of  partipants.  I felt a profound level of respect when considering just how perseverant these people were in trying to prove its existence.

Also covered is the evolution of the thinking behind how the sun powers itself, of which the neutrino played a part.  The starts and stops of this process made for some neat historical reading, with names I knew and many that I did not.

Lastly, I never truly understood the point of particle accelerators.  Now I do.

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