Lederman, the 70-year-old Nobel-winning experimental physicist and former director of Fermilab, takes the reader on a rollicking tour of mankind's two-thousand-year search for the nature of matter and lets the public in on what grand discoveries may lie ahead.
The search for the ultimate particle began with a Greek philosopher named Democritus, Lederman writes, who managed to postulate the existence of the "a-tom''--in spite of an unaccommodating myth-based culture, the scorn and amusement of his peers, and a total lack of any concrete proof. Since then, experimentation in 19th-century laboratories and 20th-century particle accelerators has proven the Greek largely correct. Lederman's playful re-evocation of this scientific journey-- beginning with a fictional chat with Democritus, continuing past a "string of infinitely sweet moments that scientists have had over the past 2,500 years,'' and concluding with joyful descriptions of decades of discoveries in the atom-smashers at Fermilab, CERN, and Brookhaven--manages, miraculously, to both elucidate and entertain. As an experimentalist, Lederman is able to convey the sheer pleasure of hands-on physics more ably, perhaps, than some of his theorist colleagues. In any case, as he describes his Nobel-winning work with neutrinos, evokes the beauty of both the interior and exterior of Fermilab, and details particle physics' continuing search for the ultimate a-tom and, possibly, a final, ultimate grand unifying theory, the joy of the quest for scientific truth plays a major and memorable role.
A highly knowledgeable insider's look at the world of physics- -wrapped in a bright, shiny, purely delightful package.