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Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  296 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Winner of the Canadian Science Writers Association 2014 Science in Society Book Award
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Book of the Season
A Book to Watch Out For, The New Yorker's Page-Turner Blog
A Los Angeles Times Gift Guide Selection
One of the Best Physics Books of 2013, Cocktail Party Physics Blog, Scientific American

Detective thriller meets astrophysics in this a
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2013)
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(showing 1-30)
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Charlene Lewis- Estornell
If you are not already in love with the neutrino hunters who are spread all around the globe, trying to understand how matter came into existence, after this book, you will be. You won't be able to help falling in love with:

- The simple way in which Jayawardhana walks you through the science
- The wonderful history he provides of a few scientists (see end of review for his history of Paul Dirac**)
- His EXCELLENT explanations of the experiments going on right now (and making news!)
- And his abilit
Sep 02, 2014 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
and the bartender says, we don't serve your kind in here!


a neutrino walks into a bar.

UPDATE at the halfway point:
So far I have to say that, while I am enjoying this and whizzing through it quickly, I could do with a lot more particle physics and a lot less anecdotal and biographical detail. Does this person not have an editor to tell him that it's neither necessary nor acceptable to add every random bit of information about everything as a subordinate clause? On the writing style more gener
Jul 17, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it
Does a really impressive job distilling a complex concept into a readable text. Three favorite parts:

1) there's an undercurrent of resentment toward the big and expensive collider projects, which clearly get more money. Jayawardhana repeatedly talks about how much cheaper neturino hunting can be and how what they find is actually useful compared to CERN and things like that.

2) There's apparently a neutrino detection system at almost the South Pole, which consists of tubes buried really deep un
Jan 01, 2014 David rated it liked it
I liked this book more for its up to date information (it was published at the end of 2013 and covers the latest developments) than for its explanations of some of the experiments. I understand that this is a book targeted at the layman, but sometimes a bit of detail will help in understanding some of the ideas. For instance, saying that an experiment will be improved by adding a bit of gadolinium without, at least, hinting at how this will be an improvement, is of limited use: you have some inf ...more
Read Ng
Jan 11, 2015 Read Ng rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a GoodReads giveaway.

I was not sure I really wanted to read this. I had my own struggles getting through college physics. Was I going to find this unpleasant? Well, it turned out that I quite enjoyed this telling. Of course modern physics is vastly different then, than it is today. And subatomic physics even more so. There is a great history of the development of subatomic theory that I was never really aware of. That's the problem when you study physics versus studying the history of
Apr 09, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, lucid, engaging. The neutrino story is inherently fascinating to particle-physicist-manqué-me but the way Ray Jayawardhana handles the rhythms of the various theories, experiments and missteps -- not to mention his perfect pitch for just the most illuminating/winning anecdotes and quotations to share from a colourful cast of physicists -- should make this appeal to a much wider audience.
Sarah Pybus
Jan 10, 2014 Sarah Pybus rated it really liked it
I received this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. This isn't just a Science book! It manages to weave in human stories about Scientists with an interesting scientific narrative to make an absorbing read.
Sajith Kumar
May 22, 2016 Sajith Kumar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only a few years back, a storm of protests broke out in the Indian state of Kerala over the proposed construction of a neutrino observatory on the state’s border with Tamil Nadu. Politicians, including the then opposition leader of the state – who was uneducated – came on the scene amid much fanfare, extolling the dangers caused by neutrinos! Though the protests petered out in a few weeks, it was the first time ever in the world that neutrinos became controversial. It was projected out of all pr ...more
Helgi Hróðmarsson
Dec 04, 2016 Helgi Hróðmarsson rated it really liked it
For those without an advanced degree in science jargon, neutrinos are elusive, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny little particles who rarely interact with matter. MATTER of fact… *pause for laughter, followed by immense self-loathing*… trillions of neutrinos pass through the human body each second, and have done so every day from the moment we were born and will continue to the day we’ll die. Alarmed yet? Don’t be.

Neutrinos are byproducts of the nuclear reactions that fuel our sun (and the rest of the star
Nov 04, 2015 Darren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 2013, this book grabbed my attention because of the recent 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics having been awarded jointly to a Japanese (Takaaki Kajita) and an Ontario-Canadian (Arthur B. McDonald) physicist for work that validated the oscillation theory of neutrinos, revealing neutrinos have mass, requiring some serious revisions to the Standard Model of particle physics.

The book is well written as the author takes the reader on an adventure of the Neutrino's history and all the scientifi
Joe AuBuchon
Apr 20, 2014 Joe AuBuchon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Most of the books I read have to do with Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science - after all, I can't feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There went my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, exc
Jun 05, 2016 Robert rated it really liked it
Neutrino Hunters was an excellent read. I picked it up after learning neutrinos are the most abundant particle in the universe. The specter of a ghostly particle zipping through any type of matter stimulates the imagination. The fact that it (well, there are actually three “flavors” of neutrinos) possesses mass and may be its own anti-particle is an exciting development that will upset the physics’ apple cart known as the Standard Model.

I love the historical tie-ins, including the contributions
Haley Keller
Sep 14, 2015 Haley Keller rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is essentially the story of our understanding of neutrinos. Various people who were important in helping make new discoveries and learning new things are all included. I think the best way to describe it is that this book is a history of sorts of how we've come to understand what we do about neutrinos. Then there's some science mixed in to help you understand what exactly it is they're discovering as well. That being said, the science in the book is always written about in easy to unde ...more
May 27, 2015 Cade rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, technology
This book does a good job of surveying the past, present, and future of neutrinos. It includes a history of the early theoretical proposals positing the existence of neutrinos and the subsequent early experimental detections. It then moves into recounting the story of the "solar neutrino deficit" and the implications of its resolution. In doing so, it describes the past and present generation of neutrino detectors like Davis's Homestake mine experiment, SuperK in Japan, IceCube in Antarctica, an ...more
Apr 18, 2015 J rated it it was amazing
I received this book as part of GoodReads FirstReads program. However, since my husband read it before I did, I'm posting his review here - based on his description, I'm looking forward to reading this next.

From Pauli to Pontecorvo, and all the way up to the scientists of today, the book does an excellent job of outlining the history of the neutrino: from its first inception as a hypothesized particle, to its first actual detection, and finally, to the increasingly large and costly detectors th
Apr 29, 2014 Zachary rated it really liked it
This is a brisk, fun, very interesting and well-written popular account of neutrino physics, the history of of the neutrino in physics, and the various experiments aimed at detecting these ghostly particles that pervade the universe and pass through us in untold numbers without interacting with the matter that make us up. The experiments described are wonderfully clever, and include nifty anecdotes such as the 10 tons of Roman-smelted lead from a 2000 year old shipwreck that became part of one e ...more
Nov 06, 2016 Woolstar rated it it was amazing
I have read a few other books and papers on neutrinos, but this book did a great job of covering the history of the neutrinos, the scientists involved (their contributions, some of their individual personalities and histories, and some controversies and mysteries), clear explanations of reactions involving neutrinos from different sources as the scientists set out to detect them, the enormous challenges scientists overcame in their experiments (detecting six atoms of argon from a tank of 10,000 ...more
May 25, 2015 Paul rated it it was ok
Not the worst science book I've ever read, but this is one of those books that tries to convince you that all science is crazy interesting. Case in point: there is nothing thrilling about instruments designed to detect neutrinos. Those experiments are carefully and deliberately designed to validate or invalidate certain models in particle physics which, at the moment, have no immediate relevance to one's day-to-day life. I sincerely hope that one day people realize that we are no longer in the a ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised to be the first reviewer here. Well, OK, books on the physics of subatomic particles probably don't hit the Goodreads demographic. This was surprisingly accessible and really pretty well done. Jayawardhana does a decent job at explaining the importance of understanding neutrinos, explaining what they are, and detailing the history of their exploration. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Bronson Pinchot (yes, Balki from Perfect Strangers...) and I've come to enjoy his narration ...more
Logan Sibley
Nov 24, 2014 Logan Sibley rated it really liked it
I found this book to be wonderfully written and engaging. However, the facts presented are quite basic, so as a person in the field being discussed in the book, I found there were no new insights for me. I was hoping for some new anecdote or idea to change my perspective of the people who built the field...

Nevertheless, a highly recommended read! This book does an exemplary job of highlighting the importance and excitement of the study of neutrinos, from its history to the future of the field.
Oct 24, 2015 Kaye rated it it was amazing
Having read both Neutrino Hunters by Jayawardhana and Neutrino by Frank Close, I can definitely say that the former is a much better work. The author succinctly discusses the neutrino field, and unlike Close's prose, the text flows well and makes a lot of consistent narrative sense. I thought that the overview of the projects in neutrino physics was very interesting, and I really enjoyed reading this. The science descriptions in either work are good, but again, the reading experience has to be g ...more
Marie Dafgard
Jun 23, 2014 Marie Dafgard rated it liked it
I wish I could give a good reason for why this book took me so long to read. I read it all while at work, which can be tricky at times? It would take about ten pages for me to get into it each time I picked it up, even if I set it down for only a few minutes in between? Who knows. Anyway, another great book for the complicated and multi-layered nature of science and discovery that focuses specifically on neutrinos. I read it for a conference/workshop I'm going to in a week...but if you're intere ...more
Elizabeth Beckett
Aug 13, 2015 Elizabeth Beckett rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book. Short, sweet and exciting. It is informative without being complicated and is easy to digest for non-physicists. The Neutrino Hunters elegantly opens the doors to the riveting but mostly unknown world of particle physics and introduces readers to a cast of interesting characters and concepts within the ongoing chase for a complete theory of subatomic physics, with the neutrino as the main star.
A must read for amateur science nerds like me. Very well written and carefu
Feb 16, 2014 Harini rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I am no Physics nerd. But my fascination for particle theory, quantum theory, electromagnetic theory, super string theory etc. cant stop me from going for it. This book does it just right, by appealing to my other weakness - history. An upbeat history of neutrinos. With the chronology and general foundation Dr.Ray provides, I have prepared myself for a mind bend that the deeper tome by Heinrich Päs promises, on the same subject.
Nick Carnac
Feb 16, 2015 Nick Carnac rated it really liked it
Shelves: theists-unite
Big Science for the decade ahead...galactic centre black hole feeding NOW.
Deft summary with mesmerising explanations of Standard model , stellar collapse and neutron packing.
Conceive the incomprehensible states of matter that lie on the approach to the event horizon /singularity.
Supernovae now eagerly awaited for analysis by the several new telescopic modalities -
x-ray , neutrino stream and gravity wave adding to Infra red and optical view...
Jennifer Martin
Loved this book.
Great mixture of history and science. Section about recent developments was interesting but the anecdotes about historical pioneers in Neutrino research made this so great to read. Who wouldn't want to know that Wolfgang Pauli once skipped a scientific meeting to go to a public ball?
Personalities of the physicists involved shone through.
Breezy for a science book but doesn't skimp on the explanation of the core concepts.
Feb 08, 2015 Jason rated it liked it
Interesting read about the elusive particle and amazing about some things it could be used for if better detectors were built, like peering deep into the Earth and finding rogue nuclear reactors. Not sure if "thrilling" is quite right (which is on the cover), but that might be due to my opinion of folks having to build larger detectors that might pick up a neutrino reaction a couple times a year (though the detectors are getting better)
Armand Daigle
Jul 16, 2014 Armand Daigle rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Good informational resource on the background and timeline of neutrino science. Aside from a few concepts that were not explained as in depth as they should have been, this book is fairly readable for the average person. By the end, it almost behaves like a pitch to potential neutrino research investors, but the experimental observations and the scientists behind them shape this book into a compelling ride.
Robert Keck
Mar 29, 2014 Robert Keck rated it really liked it
I will admit science and physics and stuff like that is not my strong suit. I know this book held my interest so I would say it's as much about people and how they interact as all that stuff I don't understand. Quirky characters and humor goes a long way when it makes a book like this accessible to me.
Mikko Muilu
Jan 03, 2016 Mikko Muilu rated it really liked it
The brief history of neutrino hunters, glossary and science of neutrinos in easy to understand package. High school level of knowledge is needed about particle physics, but otherwise easy to understand and exciting story. I love the anecdotes and the stories about the lives of the scientists. They help me understand and remember the naming of particles and make the science more familiar.
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Goodreads Librari...: duplicate with incorrect name 2 12 Sep 14, 2015 03:38PM  
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Ray Jayawardhana is a professor and the Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Originally from Sri Lanka, he is a graduate of Yale and Harvard. He is the co-author of more than one hundred papers in scientific journals. His discoveries have made headlines worldwide, including in The Times, The Economist, Sydney Morning Herald, and BBC News, and have led t ...more
More about Ray Jayawardhana...

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