Monday, May 21, 2012

Wisconsin Book Festival Featured Presenters

The Wisconsin Book Festival has announced their initial list of author presenters for 2012!  For those of you not familiar with the Festival, here is a description from their website:
The Wisconsin Book Festival is a free, five-day program of public events that takes place every Fall in downtown Madison.  It is the state’s largest literary festival, drawing thousands of attendees annually.
Since its inception in 2002, the Wisconsin Book Festival has been a showcase for literary talent from across the state of Wisconsin and beyond.  It is a forum for people to come together and sit face to face and side by side, to talk and listen, whisper, laugh, cry, sing, sign, write notes, tell jokes, and give voice to their ideas.  The Wisconsin Book Festival is a special project of the Wisconsin Humanities Council, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit, and works to fulfill the WHC’s mission: Community through Conversation.
We proudly host authors of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages; in addition we stage plays, offer hands-on workshops, feature spoken word performances, and more.  Our authors have included such well-known names as Grace Paley, Tim O’Brien, Edwidge Danticat, Isabel Allende, Michael Chabon, TC Boyle, Judy Blume, Wendell Berry, Michael Perry, Lorrie Moore, Lynda Barry and Harvey Pekar. 
This year's fesitval is taking place from November 7-11 and has the theme "Lost & Found".  The initial list of presenters include:

Add books by these authors to your summer reading list now and be ready to enjoy everything the Wisconsin Book Festival has to offer this fall!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer Reading List

Now that school's almost done, check out these fun books that were new to the Physics Library collection during the 2011-2012 school year.

  • THE 4% UNIVERSE:  DARK MATTER, DARK ENERGY, AND THE RACE TO DISCOVER THE REST OF REALITY.
  •   By Richard Panek.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
    THE 4% UNIVERSE:  DARK MATTER, DARK ENERGY, AND THE RACE TO DISCOVER THE REST OF REALITY.
    • In recent years, a handful of scientists has been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only 4 percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown. 
      Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of how scientists reached this cosmos-shattering conclusion. In vivid detail, he narrates the quest to find the “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy that make up 96 percent of the universe. This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. Based on hundreds of interviews and in-depth, on-site reporting, the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have redefined science and reinvented the universe.

  • ALICE AND THE QUANTUM CAT.
  •   Edited by William Brandon Shanley and Nick Herbert.  Pari, Italy:  Pari Publishing, 2011. 
      ALICE AND THE QUANTUM CAT.
    • Alice in Wonderland leaps into the twenty-first century of quantum paradoxes and chaotic attractors. In a series of engaging stories several of the world's leading science writers speculate on what would happen if the young Alice were to enter the world of quarks, fractals, chaos theory, Heisenberg's uncertainty, the very center of the universe and theories of everything. The book also contains a glossary, very accessible to the lay reader, of definitions and explanations of the curious quantum world.
  • THE BEAUTIFUL INVISIBLE.
  •   By Giovanni Viganale.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2011.
    • Challenging the image of theoretical physics as a dry discipline, The Beautiful Invisible shows that this highly abstract science is in fact teeming with beautiful concepts, and the task of imagining them demands profound creativity, just as creative as the work of poets or magical realist novelists such as Borges and Musil. "A good scientific theory is like a symbolic tale, an allegory of reality," writes Giovanni Vignale, as he uncovers the unexpected links between theoretical physics and artistic creativity. In engaging and at times poetic prose, and with ample quotations from many of the writers he admires, Vignale presents his own unorthodox accounts of fundamental theoretical concepts such as Newtonian mechanics, superconductivity, and Einstein's theory of relativity, illuminating their profound implications. Throughout, the author treats readers to glimpses of physics as "exercised in the still night, when only the moon rages." Indeed, as we delve behind now-familiar concepts such as "electron spin" and "black hole," the world that we take for granted melts away, leaving a glimpse of something much stranger.
  • CONSTRUCTING REALITY:  QUANTUM THEORY AND PARTICLE PHYSICS
  •   By John Marburger III. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2011. 
    • Questions of the fundamental nature of matter continue to inspire and engage our imagination. However, the exciting new concepts of strings, supersymmetry and exotic matter build on ideas that are well known to physicists but mysterious and puzzling to people outside of these research fields. Covering key conceptual developments from the last century, this book provides a background to the bold ideas and challenges faced by physicists today. Quantum theory and the Standard Model of particles are explained with minimal mathematics, and advanced topics, such as gauge theory and quantum field theory, are put into context. With concise, lucid explanations, this book is an essential guide to the world of particle physics.
  • COSMIC NUMBERS:  THE NUMBERS THAT DEFINE OUR UNIVERSE
  •  By James D. Stein. New York:  Basic Books, 2011.
    • In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James D. Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the numbers that define our world. Everyone knows about the speed of light and absolute zero, but numbers like Boltzmann’s constant and the Chandrasekhar limit are not as well known, and they do far more than one might imagine: They tell us how this world began and what the future holds. Much more than a gee-whiz collection of facts and figures, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important—both to the scientist and to the rest of us.
  • EINSTEIN WROTE BACK:  MY LIFE IN PHYSICS.
  •  By John W. Moffat.  Toronto:  Thomas Allen Publishers, 2010.
  • ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY:  THE STORY OF A BOY’S DANGEROUS ODYSSEY TO REUNITE WITH HIS MOTHER.
  •   By Sonia Nazario.  New York:  Random House, 2007.  [2011 Go Big Read Book Selection]
    • If you missed reading this 2011 Go Big Read pick during the school year, catch up now!
  • THE FALLACY OF FINE-TUNING: WHY THE UNIVERSE IS NOT DESIGNED FOR US
  •   By Victor J. Stenger.  Amherst, NY:  Prometheus Books, 2011.
    • A number of authors have noted that if some physical parameters were slightly changed, the universe could no longer support life, as we know it. This implies that life depends sensitively on the physics of our universe. Does this "fine-tuning" of the universe also suggest that a creator god intentionally calibrated the initial conditions of the universe such that life on earth and the evolution of humanity would eventually emerge? Some influential scientists, such as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, think so. Others go even further, asserting that science "has found God."
  • FOR THE LOVE OF PHYSICS:  FROM THE END OF THE RAINBOW TO THE EDGE OF TIME – A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WONDERS OF PHYSICS.
  •   By Walter Lewin with Walter Goldstein.  New York:  Free Press, 2011.
    • FOR MORE THAN FORTY YEARS as a beloved professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Walter Lewin honed his singular craft of making physics not only accessible but truly fun. Now Lewin takes readers on a marvelous journey in For the Love of Physics, opening our eyes as never before to the amazing beauty and power with which physics can reveal the hidden workings of the world around us.
  • GLIDING FOR GOLD:  THE PHYSICS OF WINTER SPORTS.
  •   By Mark Denny.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
    • A physics-driven exploration of sports played on ice and snow that is truly fun and informative, Gliding for Gold is the perfect primer for understanding the science behind cold weather athletics.
  • GOLD MEDAL PHYSICS:  THE SCIENCE OF SPORTS
  •  By John Eric Goff.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010
    • Fun, witty, and imbued throughout with admiration for the simple beauty of physics, Gold Medal Physics is sure to inspire readers to think differently about the next sporting event they watch.
    HOW THE HIPPIES SAVED PHYSICS:  SCIENCE, COUNTERCULTURE, AND THE QUANTUM REVIVAL
  • HOW THE HIPPIES SAVED PHYSICS:  SCIENCE, COUNTERCULTURE, AND THE QUANTUM REVIVAL.
  •  By David Kaiser.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
    • A lively, entertaining story that illuminates the relationship between creativity and scientific progress, How the Hippies Saved Physics takes us to a time when only the unlikeliest heroes could break the science world out of its rut. 46 black-and-white illustrations
    • David Kaiser was a 2011 Physics Colloquia speaker.
  • THE INSTANT PHYSICIST:  AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE.
  •   By Richard A. Muller. Illustrated by Joey Manfre.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
    • Richard A. Muller demonstrated in his recent bestseller, Physics for Future Presidents, that he has a unique talent for delivering the “aha” moment—making difficult topics accessible. In The Instant Physicist he shows his ability to entertain, too, by presenting the best of the scientific curiosities he has assembled over his distinguished career. Assisted by award-winning cartoonist Joey Manfre, who has created an original color cartoon for each “physics bite,” Muller will have readers chuckling while they’re absorbing more science than they ever thought possible. From the surprising (chocolate has more energy in it than TNT) to the scary (even kids can make a bomb), this book contains a revelation on every page. Once finished with this page-turner, readers will be the stars of their next cocktail party.
  • JAMES VAN ALLEN:  THE FIRST EIGHT BILLION MILES
  •  By Abigail Foerstner. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2007.
    • Astrophysicist and space pioneer James Van Allen (1914–2006), for whom the Van Allen radiation belts were named, was among the principal scientific investigators for twenty-four space missions, including Explorer I in 1958, the first successful U.S. satellite; Mariner 2’s 1962 flyby of Venus, the first successful mission to another planet; and the 1970s Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 missions that surveyed Jupiter and Saturn. Although he retired as a University of Iowa professor of physics and astronomy in 1985, he remained an active researcher, using his campus office to monitor data from Pioneer 10—on course to reach the edge of the solar system when its signal was lost in 2003—until a short time before his death at the age of ninety-one. Now Abigail Foerstner blends space science drama, military agendas, cold war politics, and the events of Van Allen’s lengthy career to create the first biography of this highly influential physicist.
  • MASSIVE:  THE MISSING PARTICLE THAT SPARKED THE GREATEST HUNT IN SCIENCE.
  •   By Ian Sample.  New York:  Basic Books, 2010.
    • In Massive, prize-winning science journalist Ian Sample tells the story of the race to locate the Higgs Boson, the elusive particle whose existence remains to be proven. Since 1964, when Peter Higgs described an over-arching theory of mass that depended on the Higgs boson, the scientific community has been possessed by the increasingly competitive race to prove its existence. The ensuing four-decade quest has cost billions of dollars and consumed the attention of scientific luminaries and of politicians eager to ensure that their home country would be the one to get credit for discovering the long-sought-after particle. Now, with the Large Hadron Collider up and running, the discovery of the Higgs boson seems finally to be within our grasp. Sample’s Massive provides the juicy backstory to what will possibly be the defining discovery of modern physics, complete with intense rivalries, clashing egos, and grand ambition.
  • THE PHYSICIST’S WORLD:  THE STORY OF MOTION AND THE LIMITS TO KNOWLEDGE.
  •   By Thomas Grissom.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
    • How do students learn about physics without picking up a 1,000-page textbook chock-full of complicated equations? The Physicist’s World is the answer. Here, Thomas Grissom explains clearly and succinctly what physics really is: the science of understanding how everything in the universe moves.... This is physics for the thinking person, especially students who enjoy learning concepts, histories, and interpretations without becoming mired in complex mathematical detail. A concise survey of the field of physics, Grissom’s book offers students and professionals alike a unique perspective on what physicists do, how physics is done, and how physicists view the world.
  • THE PONTECORVO AFFAIR:  A COLD WAR DEFECTION AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS
  •  By Simone Turchetti.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
      THE PONTECORVO AFFAIR:  A COLD WAR DEFECTION AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS
    • In the fall of 1950, newspapers around the world reported that the Italian-born nuclear physicist Bruno Pontecorvo and his family had mysteriously disappeared while returning to Britain from a holiday trip. Because Pontecorvo was known to be an expert working for the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment, this raised immediate concern for the safety of atomic secrets, especially when it became known in the following months that he had defected to the Soviet Union. Was Pontecorvo a spy? Did he know and pass sensitive information about the bomb to Soviet experts? At the time, nuclear scientists, security personnel, Western government officials, and journalists assessed the case, but their efforts were inconclusive and speculations quickly turned to silence. In the years since, some have downplayed Pontecorvo’s knowledge of atomic weaponry, while others have claimed him as part of a spy ring that infiltrated the Manhattan Project. 
      The Pontecorvo Affair
       draws from newly disclosed sources to challenge previous attempts to solve the case, offering a balanced and well-documented account of Pontecorvo, his activities, and his possible motivations for defecting. Along the way, Simone Turchetti reconsiders the place of nuclear physics and nuclear physicists in the twentieth century and reveals that as the discipline’s promise of military and industrial uses came to the fore, so did the enforcement of new secrecy provisions on the few experts in the world specializing in its application.
  • QUANTUM MAN:  RICHARD FEYNMAN’S LIFE IN SCIENCE.
  • By Lawrence M. Krauss.  New York:  W.W. Norton, 2011.
    • Perhaps the greatest physicist of the second half of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman changed the way we think about quantum mechanics, the most perplexing of all physical theories. Here Lawrence M. Krauss, himself a theoretical physicist and best-selling author, offers a unique scientific biography: a rollicking narrative coupled with clear and novel expositions of science at the limits. An immensely colorful persona in and out of the office, Feynman revolutionized our understanding of nature amid a turbulent life. Krauss presents that life—from the death of Feynman’s childhood sweetheart during the Manhattan Project to his reluctant rise as a scientific icon—as seen through the science, providing a new understanding of the legacy of a man who has fascinated millions. An accessible reflection on the issues that drive physics today, Quantum Man captures the story of a man who was willing to break all the rules to tame a theory that broke all the rules.
  • QUANTUM PHYSICS FOR POETS
  •  By Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill.  Amherst, NY:  Prometheus Books, 2011.
    • Quantum theory is the bedrock of contemporary physics and the basis of understanding matter in its tiniest dimensions and the vast universe as a whole. But for many, the theory remains an impenetrable enigma.
      Their story is partly historical, covering the many "Eureka" moments when great scientists--Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schroedinger, and others--struggled to come to grips with the bizarre realities that quantum research revealed. Although their findings were indisputably proven in experiments, they were so strange and counterintuitive that Einstein refused to accept quantum theory, despite its great success.
      The authors explain the many strange and even eerie aspects of quantum reality at the subatomic level, from "particles" that can be many places simultaneously and sometimes act more like waves, to the effect that a human can have on their movements by just observing them!
      Finally, Drs. Lederman and Hill delve into quantum physics' latest and perhaps most breathtaking offshoots--field theory and string theory. The intricacies and ramifications of these two theories will give the reader much to ponder. In addition, the authors describe the diverse applications of quantum theory in its almost countless forms of modern technology throughout the world.
      Using eloquent analogies and illustrative examples, Quantum Physics for Poets render even the most profound reaches of quantum theory understandable and something for us all to savor.
  • A TIME AND A TIDE: CHARLES K. KAO:  A MEMOIR.
  •   By Charles K. Kao.  Hong Kong:  Chinese University Press, 2011.
    • Charles K. Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication." This memoir chronicles his personal and scientific odyssey from his an unfathomable childhood in war-torn Shanghai and Hong Kong to his seminal work with glass fibers. Kao shares his experiences as vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and muses on his legacy as the "father of fiber optics." His groundbreaking research (based in part on the discovery that signal loss in fiber cables was a direct result of glass impurities rather than technology flaws) laid the groundwork for our present day communication infrastructure. 
If you want to browse past new books for yourself, visit http://physics.library.wisc.edu/newbooks/index.html

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Neutrino

Close, F. E. (2010). Neutrino. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

In 2006 Oxford University physics professor and accomplished popularizer of science Frank Close was invited to write an obituary of nuclear chemist and physics Nobel laureate Raymond (Ray) Davis Jr. When that obituary won the UK Science Writer's Prize for the "Best Science Writing in a Non-Scientific Context," Close decided to expand it into a popular book.
Neutrino is the story of the elusive particle conjured by Wolfgang Pauli as a "desperate remedy" to save the law of conservation of energy. Pauli was hesitant about publishing his idea; he even turned down an invitation to present it at a conference in Tübingen, Germany. Instead, in a famous open letter to the conference attendees, addressed to the "Dear Radioactive Ladies and Gentlemen," Pauli described why he proposed the neutrino. (It's likely that neither he nor they were aware that their own bodies were radioactive—due to potassium-40 decaying in their bones—and emitting neutrinos, no less.)
Soon afterward Enrico Fermi developed a theory modeled after electromagnetism that described neutrino interactions. Several theorists worked out the interaction cross section of neutrinos with matter and found it to be exceedingly small, which led physicists to believe that there was no practical way of observing the neutrino. Despite that prevailing view, atomic physicist Bruno Pontecorvo, at one time Fermi's assistant, realized that however elusive neutrinos may be, they can be detected by observing the radioactive argon nuclei produced when a sufficiently intense neutrino source interacts with a large enough chlorine target.
Enter Davis, who, after joining the Brookhaven National Laboratory, was told to go to the library, do some reading, and choose a project. In searching the literature, Davis came across Pontecorvo's work and decided to give his idea a go. Thus began Davis's hunt for neutrinos produced by the Sun. Eventually, Davis teamed up with John Bahcall, who carefully calculated the neutrino–chlorine interaction cross section and the solar neutrino flux. Eventually, the hunt for neutrinos would involve many experiments that looked not only to the Sun, but also to reactors, accelerators, and the atmosphere.
Close tells the story well. In particular, he does an excellent job of describing the early 20th-century understanding of radioactivity that led to Pauli's "desperate remedy." Almost as good is the way Close charts our evolving comprehension of the origin of solar energy. The book is full of gems that would equally interest the casual reader and the professional physicist. Such tales include the story of the seminal paper by Fermi being rejected by Nature as "too speculative" and the comment by Bahcall, who heroically kept the solar-neutrino problem interesting for three decades, that the hardest thing he had ever done was wooing his future wife.
For a neutrino aficionado like me, this book is too short. It does not cover many fascinating aspects of neutrino physics and its history, and I think that some of the presentation will be difficult for the uninitiated reader to grasp; one example is the way Close distinguishes neutrinos from antineutrinos. Also, it is satisfying to see Pontecorvo given due credit, but another equally captivating figure, Ettore Majorana—also a Fermi protégé—is not mentioned at all. Consequently, alluring topics such as Majorana mass, neutrinoless double-beta decay, and the question of whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles are omitted. Perhaps Close wanted to restrict himself to experiments that have so far seen undisputed positive results.
Given Close's research focus in particle physics, it is no surprise that the particle aspect of neutrinos is covered in more depth than the role neutrinos—besides the solar variety—play in astrophysics. Astrophysical neutrinos are important because a neutrino's weak interactions allow it to travel very long distances in the cosmos, thus giving us a peek into the environment that created it. Perhaps in a subsequent edition astrophysical neutrinos will be covered in more detail.
Overall I much enjoyed reading Neutrino, and despite its minor shortcomings, I would recommend it as an excellent introduction to the subject. Three-quarters of a century after Pauli, neutrino physics is now a precise science. Many experiments, ongoing and planned, will doubtless reveal much more about these fascinating particles.
Submitted by Baha Balantekin
This review is reprinted by permission from American Institute of Physics: Physics Today 64:4, 58 (April 2011), copyright 2011

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Hopkirk, P. (1992). The great game: The struggle for empire in central Asia. New York: Kodansha International.

A history book that is actually entertaining and fascinating to read. Covers British, Russian and other powers' attempts to control Central Asia and India in the 18th and 19th centuries. Offers context for today's issues in that region, and general knowledge about an area that few of us in the US study. The only flaw I see in this book is that the Soviet archives were not accessible in 1992, but otherwise, the old publishing date does not detract from the history.

Copies of this book at UW-Madison Libraries

Submitted by Michael McFarlane

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review: Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of the World's Most Mysterious Continent

Walker, G. (2013). Antarctica: An intimate portrait of the world's most mysterious continent . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pub.

Polar research: Deep-frozen science

A dazzling array of narratives throngs Antarctica, collected from scientists in one of Earth's most extreme environments. Science writer and consultant Gabrielle Walker gathered these stories in the course of five trips criss-crossing the continent, mostly as a guest of the US National Science Foundation's Antarctic programme.
This is not just a highly accessible encyclopedia of Antarctic science. It interlaces researchers' stories with natural history, tales of the 'heroic age' of exploration and passages that viscerally describe the cold, isolation and beauty of the environment. Neatly organized geographically, the book covers the East Antarctic coast, with McMurdo Station (the largest community in Antarctica) and the penguins; the high plateau, with the Concordia and South Pole research stations; and the isolated West Antarctic coast.
Walker talks about the Dry Valleys near McMurdo, which run from the edge of the ice sheet that covers most of the continent down to the Ross Sea. Precious little precipitation has fallen here for millions of years: with an average temperature of −55 °C, this is Mars on Earth. But it is teeming with life — cyanobacteria, found in ponds the world over. Here, they live inside the dry rock, surfacing for only a few weeks a year to find water from the little snow that fell over winter. Then they go back to sleep.
Walker learned that fascinating story on a diving expedition in Lake Hoare in the Dry Valleys with Peter Doran, a biologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But it isn't only researchers who feature here. The book is peppered with characters who “keep the scientists alive”. On one trip we meet camp manager Rae Spain, who came to Antarctica as a carpenter and returned because she could not get the continent out of her head. “It haunts you,” she told Walker.
Mars has literally come to Earth just beyond the Dry Valleys, Walker tells us. Researchers on Skidoos systematically scan the ice sheet for meteorites — a relatively easy task, given that everything stands out in this icy landscape. We accompany John Schutt, a mountaineer who has returned for the hunt every year since 1980. More meteorites have been found since the 1970s in Antarctica than over centuries in the rest of the world.
In 1982, for the first time, an Antarctic meteorite was identified as coming from the Moon. Two years later, researchers found a rock from Mars that turned out to contain structures that may be nanoscale fossils: the most intriguing indications yet that life may have existed on other planets in the Solar System, although debate is still raging.
The West Antarctic coast, as Walker shows, is out of reach of the permanent scientific stations, and difficult to approach by vessel. This is where gigantic glaciers empty into the Pacific Ocean, and studies have revealed rapid changes in the ice flow. Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, has traced these changes to sub-glacial lakes linked by canals, which form a dynamic hydrologic system on which the ice slides to the sea. Walker journeys across the inhospitable glaciers, where she stands on ice flows the size of Niagara Falls with George Denton of the University of Maine in Orono, a veteran in 'reading' glacial landscapes.
Some of the historical vignettes will be familiar, such as the race to the South Pole between Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his trained team, and Robert Scott, British hero of scientists, who presumably found Amundsen's efficient approach ungentlemanly. Other stories are less well known, such as that of Australian geologist Douglas Mawson, who travelled to the south magnetic pole as part of Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod expedition and later led a disastrous research trip to Adelie Land, on which two men died.
Tales of those expeditions, and the scientific ones that followed, remind us that people have been travelling to Antarctica for almost two centuries, ever since seal hunter Captain John Davis first set foot there in 1821. The Antarctic Treaty, signed by 49 countries, has since 1961 guaranteed that the continent is reserved for science. High technology has now arrived: the collaborations behind the South Pole Telescope and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory have constructed the kinds of instrument that are more routinely built at laboratories such as Fermilab near Batavia, Illinois, or CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. IceCube collects a few hundred neutrinos per day, some with energies that exceed those at earthbound accelerators by more than two orders of magnitude.
Yet Antarctica is still the “world's most mysterious continent”, as it remains the only one on which humans have never lived permanently. Walker captures that mystique through interviews with people who have made Antarctica part of their lives. Perhaps the most notable among them are the “telescope nannies”, who return each year in early February to spend the long Antarctic winters at the South Pole, taking care of the scientific equipment and data acquisition after scientists have boarded the last planes back to their universities. Their arduous job brings a rare reward: a sense of the untrammelled isolation of this vast continent.
Submitted by Francis Halzen

Copies of this book at UW-Madison Libraries

This review is reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature 483, 272–273 (15 March 2012), copyright 2012