Celestial Messengers – Cosmic Rays

Celestial_messengers_827x1253Author: Mario Bertolotti
Publisher: Springer
ISBN: 978-3-642-28370-5
Price: £35.99 (Pb) 400pp

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This book is about cosmic rays and the story of the scientific investigations undertook in the last hundred years or so to characterise and understand what they are and where they come from. This story goes hand-in-hand with research into particle physics, with many key discoveries in this field coming from the study of cosmic rays.

Not only does this book explain about cosmic rays, it can also be read as the scientific process in action – with competing theories having their advocates – some being proven and others falling by the wayside. Some hanging onto their theories even after incontrovertible evidence otherwise. It is an interesting and exciting tale.

Although there are not a lot of equations in this book (there are a few), there is quite a lot of ‘hard’ physics. A science background would probably be required to get the most out of it; there is not much, if any, explanation of basic terms and notations. The approach of this book is more of a scientific treatise than a general discourse. It is heavily referenced, which will be valuable for anyone whom wishes to delve deeper into the sources and there are many interesting short biographies of the characters involved, often as footnotes. The style though may be uncomfortable to people with no experience of reading scientific papers.

It might be a bit churlish to complain about the English in a book by an author for which it is their second language. However there are quite a few places where there are odd sentence constructions and phraseology. The book would have benefited from an experienced copy-writer or editor. Occasionally this was distracting, but on the whole did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

For a good grounding in what we know about cosmic rays, and how this knowledge came about, this is an excellent book and is recommended.

Reviewed by Callum Potter