A thoughtful and informative account of a scientific giant.

CHASING THE GHOST

NOBELIST FRED REINES AND THE NEUTRINO

A biography focuses on one of the American physicists who confirmed the existence of neutrinos.

In 1956, Fred Reines and Clyde Cowan collaboratively made a discovery that changed the landscape of modern physics. They proved the existence of the neutrino, a subatomic particle so elusive Reines called it “ghostly.” The search for the neutrino was born out of the problem of understanding the decay of neutrons in the nuclei of radioactive atoms. How can a neutron, which has no electrical charge, get converted into an electron and proton, both of which are charged? Some speculated there must be an undetected particle in the mix that has no charge itself and no (or very low) mass. Reines and Cowan devised a way to demonstrate the existence of such particles, which are paradoxically everywhere but all but invisible. For this groundbreaking achievement, Reines would eventually share the Nobel Prize in physics with Martin L. Perl in 1995. (Cowan died in 1974.) Cole chronicles Reines’ extraordinary accomplishment in all its iterations. At one point, Reines thought a nuclear explosion could expose the hidden neutrino, a brilliant, if impractical, hypothesis. The author also charts Reines’ early life (Growing up in a “household environment in which erudition and accomplishment were so highly prized might have intimidated some youngsters”) and an eventfully distinguished career that included working on the Manhattan Project. Cole deftly produces a “mixture of memoir and biography”—he is the younger cousin of the physicist—and, as a result, the entire work is infused with a spirit of loving admiration. Fully accounting for Reines’ brilliance requires a deep dive into some prohibitively technical subject matter, but the author manages it with remarkably accessible lucidity. In addition, he paints a full, rich portrait of Reines’ life that is not merely a catalog of professional achievements, chronicling his musical interests, his evolving thoughts on his own Jewish identity, and his admirable dedication to teaching. For all of his analytic rigor, Reines was at heart an idealist, a feature Cole vividly highlights: “Fred’s belief that science could eventually reveal the underpinnings of all physical mysteries is truly a matter of faith. His idealization of science was rooted in his teenage supposition nearly 40 years earlier that science could also end discrimination and injustice.”

A thoughtful and informative account of a scientific giant.

Pub Date: April 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-981-12-3105-6

Page Count: 300

Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Co

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

more