Email this review


An estimable attempt--conscientious, thorough-going, authoritative--to explicate the theories and experiments that have spiraled over the decades to yield quantum physicists' current views on the fundamental make-up of matter. Sutton, editor of Britain's New Scientist, pitches her tent at a level higher than other recent popularizations. She also chooses to describe one specific knotty problem in detail, at the expense of a more general overview. In particular, she traces the development of the electroweak theory, which states that electromagnetism and the weak theory of neutron decay are but two aspects of the same fundamental force, and fields of force. Involved are interactions among quarks, considered the constituents of heavy particles (the neutrons and protons of the atomic nucleus), and leptons, the family of light-weight particles (such as the electron and neutrino). Demonstration of the electroweak theory depended in part on finding evidence for the existence of so-called ""Z"" and ""W"" particles, essential factors in mediating the transmutations among fundamental particles. Tracking the elusive particles meant elaborating the apparatus and experimental design of proton-antiproton colliders at the multi-national nuclear center CERN, near Geneva, and involved teams of scientists from all parts of the world. Sutton's detailed descriptions prove once again the need to develop ever more powerful synchrotrons to produce the high-energy particles, and to devise extraordinarily ingenious traps to collect and analyze the data in order to capture the relatively rare event that is the proof of the pudding. Sutton succeeds in bringing the reader up-to-date, and in showing where even today's best theories are not without a hole or two. Not for novices then, but certainly complementary to Paul Davies and others. A short but excellent bibliography will also steer the reader to historical and more general materials.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster