The authors of The Particle Odyssey have no less an aim than to explain the curious scribbles left on photographic emulsions and computer screens by subatomic particles. To make these abstract images come to life is no mean task, and this is a book whose striking pictures are absolutely integral to the text. Through both, we not only come to understand those maddening photographs; we're also given an exciting and succinct visual account of the particle physics project, from its pioneering days to present.
Figures, diagrams and ghostly tracings: how much can non-scientists grasp the grit of science? Will they even want to? While most popular science explains itself by means of metaphor and simile, a handful of brave books attempt to convey the scientific project in all its complexity, busy-ness, and technical detail.
Early in 2002, It Must Be Beautiful, a collection of essays edited by Peter Farmelo, did interested readers a great service by explaining why scientific equations look the way they do. True, an equation is often only the tip of a massively complex intellectual iceberg; but Farmelo's contributors showed that the form of the equation itself need hold no terrors.
Particle physics is not a mere analysis of what matter is, so much as a series of testable speculations about what it once was at the first moment of existence, and what it might be, were the constants of physics other than they are. History, current knowledge, and a journalistic fascination with Big Science, are all cleverly interwoven in an account that convinced even this sceptic that, among the toils and coils of the world's most expensive machines, there is, after all, something beautiful going on.--Simon Ings [via]