Neutrino by Frank Close (2010)

When it comes to particle physics, many readers or, more often, viewers of various documentaries don't seem to fully understand the topic. Since this is my first book review here, I'll get something out of the way – I love astrophysics/astronomy books way more than I love documentaries because I think documentaries are too shallow. They are o.k. for broader audience I guess, but people are missing out on a lot.

I used to watch a lot of these documentaries, many of which are good, but after I began to read, my understanding of how the world actually works, on both (sub)atomic and astronomical level, went from vague notion to actual knowledge. Now when I watch a documentary, I realize how much viewers are missing out.

If you are interested in broadening your knowledge, the best way to do it is to start with a book that's easy to read, interesting, but still rich with information. It also helps if it's short, but that isn't always a good thing.

The book I can recommend is Neutrino by Frank Close. You may find the topic somewhat narrow if you just became interested in astrophysics, but chances are you already heard there's a particle so small it's very hard to detect. Very, very hard to detect. This book tells the story of many scientists who contributed to the discovery of neutrino, most notably Ray Davis, John Bahcall and Bruno Pontecorvo. It is a story about people as much as it is about neutrino. In fact, it is first and foremost the story of Davis' and Bahcall's decades-long search for evidence on solar neutrinos.

This is not some textbook where you are bombarded with facts. Well, that should be obvious, but the point I'm making is that the way Frank Close tells the story is so good, the facts about the neutrino itself simply sink in while you read stories from people's lives. You don't need to have any previous knowledge about particle itself to fully understand the book and I guarantee that when you're done reading, you will be glad that you spend a couple of hours on it, instead of quick look at Wikipedia or watching a documentary.

The one thing that personally disappointed me is the page count. At less than 170 pages, the book is short in my opinion. If it was a mediocre book, I'd say "good riddance", but it's a shame a book this interesting had to be so short. If you are new to the topic, then it might be just right, but if you already know more or less everything about neutrino, then you'll want more interesting stories surrounding its discovery. You can find the book on amazon.com, link is on the right. Enjoy your reading!

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