Chasing the Ghost

Chasing the Ghost
Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino
By Leonard A. Cole
Published by World Scientific Publishing Company
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Foreword by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his science classic, Gödel, Escher, Bach.

The principal aim of the book is to present an engaging narrative that appeals both to scientists and non-scientists. A mixture of memoir and biography, it tells a deeply human story. Although informed by the importance of neutrinos, it is primarily about Fred Reines, and not technical details of neutrino physics. The science presented here is intended to appeal to a broad audience. Essential to the story about Reines, the science is described in a manner intended to interest and excite the reader. While coursing through Reines’ life and the varied challenges and encounters he experienced, the book also reveals the constants of his persona. He displayed a sustained consistency throughout as a respected leader, admired by students and colleagues, a fount of big ideas and ambition. A continuing source of inspiration and motivation to others, his most basic consistency was his passion for science. The quest for knowledge about the wondrous universe is a profoundly human endeavor. Fred Reines’ life and his unremitting scientific curiosity are emblematic of that truth.

This book is the first full volume about Fred Reines. Although a Nobel laureate and recognized by many in the physics community for his scientific accomplishments, he is less well known to the general public than some other scientists of his generation. This book places deserved attention on his contributions to scientific knowledge.

As the centrality of neutrinos in the workings of the universe has become increasingly appreciated, so have Reines’ contributions including, with his colleague Clyde Cowan, first to detect the elusive particle. Besides his scientific work, Reines’ many talents, his persistence, and his magnetic personality make for an exciting story.

Top 10 science-related biographies of 2021 by Symmetry Magazine 

Finalist 2022 Indie Book Awards in the Autobiography/Biography category

“Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino is about a scientist and his extraordinary, persistent quest to find and study the most elusive particle in nature, told from a personal perspective in an engaging, informative, and understandable manner.  Leonard Cole captures the excitement of experimental neutrino physics, as well as the enormous difficulties and challenges, and the rich rewards of honors and scientific knowledge gained.  He also captures very well the personality of the central figure, a determined and complex individual, Fred Reines, the ‘father of neutrino physics,’ a man who struck everyone as larger than life.”
— Jonas Schultz, Particle Physicist, Professor, University of California, Irvine 

"Cole chronicles Reines’ extraordinary accomplishment in all its iterations… [He] deftly produces a 'mixture of memoir and biography’ and, as a result, the entire work is infused with a spirit of loving admiration...A thoughtful and informative account of a scientific giant.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This book is a most welcome account about Frederick Reines and his great contributions to neutrino physics and astrophysics. The methods he designed in the 1950s to discover neutrinos in nuclear reactor experiments are still being used. His later work included the detection of atmospheric neutrinos which was a forerunner to the discovery of neutrino oscillations, the ability of neutrinos to change from one type to another. This finding was a significant step to other experiments that aim to answer profound questions about the nature of the universe including why it is composed of matter.”
— Takaaki Kajita, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Neutrino Researcher, University of Tokyo 

“Leonard Cole does an unusually good job of conveying the nature of research into the strikingly elusive—and strikingly significant—fundamental particle, the neutrino. He masterfully covers the achievements, the influence, and the legacy of Fred Reines, a larger-than-life figure who was center stage in the entire neutrino story. With his colleague Clyde Cowan, Reines was the first to detect the particle that many thought would forever elude detection. Then he led, and later inspired, ever grander experiments probing the nature of this diminutive particle and its role in the origin and evolution of the universe. Cole brings all of this vividly to life.”
— Kenneth W. Ford, Theoretical Physicist, former Chair of the Physics Department, University of California, Irvine, and Executive Director of the American Institute of Physics

“In Chasing the Ghost Leonard Cole provides a fascinating narrative of the quest to detect neutrinos—subatomic particles that are fundamental in understanding the composition and evolution of the universe. Cole is exceptionally adept at presenting the scientific material with clarity and scientific accuracy—especially to the nonscientist.” 
— Marcia J. Rudy, PhD, Science Educator, Special Programs and Exhibits, New York Hall of Science 

"Cole has provided a compelling personal and scientific account of a remarkable pioneer in Neutrino Physics." 
— Arthur B. McDonald, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, Professor, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada 

“Neutrinos are the superstars in the zoo of particles comprising the universe. Leonard Cole’s Chasing the Ghost tells the story of the man who started their investigation from top-secret nuclear weapons development over the exploration of an African gold mine to mysterious particles with cosmic implications. The book merges an insider’s perspective onto a larger than life scientist with some of the most exciting events in 20th century history and cutting-edge physics. A must-read for any science enthusiast.”
— Heinrich Paes, Particle Physicist, Professor, Dortmund University (Germany), author, The Perfect Wave: With Neutrinos at the Boundaries of Space and Time 

hardcover | 280 pages | 9789811231056 | April 26, 2021