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‘Ghost Particle’ chronicles the neutrino’s discovery and what’s left to learn


Ghost Particle
Alan Chodos and James Riordon
MIT Press, $32.95

We live in a sea of neutrinos. Every second, trillions of them pass through our bodies. They come from the sun, nuclear reactors, collisions of cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere, even the Big Bang. Among fundamental particles, only photons are more numerous. Yet because neutrinos barely interact with matter, they are notoriously difficult to detect.

The existence of the neutrino was first proposed in the 1930s and then verified in the 1950s (SN: 2/13/54). Decades later, much about the neutrino — named in part because it has no electric charge — remains a mystery, including how many varieties of neutrinos exist, how much mass they have, where that mass comes from and whether they have any magnetic properties.

These mysteries are at the heart of…

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