THE CASE OF THE MISSING NEUTRINOS by John Gribbin

THE CASE OF THE MISSING NEUTRINOS

and Other Curious Phenomena of the Universe

KIRKUS REVIEW

Here is a collection of cosmological exotica, from the shrinking sun to the weighing of empty space, written masterfully by Gribbin (co-author, Fire on Earth, 1996, etc.), a noted English cosmologist and award-winning writer of popular science. Gribbin, is a scientist with a rare talent for translating complicated facts, theories, and questions into the layperson’s language. Here he recounts how astronomers and nonscientists alike were amazed by Jack Eddy’s announcement in 1979 that the sun was shrinking and would disappear within 100,000 years. Everyone had taken it for granted that our sun was an archetypal “normal” star until it was discovered that it was losing weight by burning 4.5 million tons of mass every second (“a mere flea-bite” compared to its total mass). Gribbin thinks the sun is only in a temporary phase of contraction that must soon be reversed. Such pulsations, he posits, must have occurred regularly over the billions of years of its existence. Gribbin also tells a related and equally colorful story: what has become of the sun’s missing neutrinos (the particles have no mass or electrical charge and travel through empty space or solid matter at the speed of light). He recounts the epic story of Ray Davis’s experimental counting of neutrinos deep within the gold mines of South Dakota. Davis detected only one-third of the number predicted, suggesting a series of bizarre speculations about the sun, such as one about its nuclear activities being temporarily “turned off.” Gribbin suggests that we may have to change many of our cherished theories about the universe. This is an example of science writing at its best: informative, witty, fun, and accessible, without sacrificing the complexities inherent in modem cosmology and particle physics.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1998
ISBN: 0-88064-199-1
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998




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