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(cover: CERN)

The Hunting of the Quark: A True Story of Modern Physics by Michael Riordan (Revised and Updated edition; 121,000 words, 70 illustrations)

This is the absorbing account of one of the twentieth century’s most revolutionary discoveries — our first encounter with an essential mystery of the universe. Told by an active participant in this discovery, it is the saga of the search for quarks, the elementary particles lurking within the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei, which constitute the fundamental basis of matter. Michael Riordan, physicist and author, was present at the key moments in this story.

He brings to life the personalities, triumphs and failures of this true-life scientific detective story, vividly portraying the soaring ambitions and clashing egos of modern physicists at work, vying for the coveted Nobel Prize.
The Hunting of the Quark gives readers an insider’s perspective on how frontier science actually occurs — the great leaps of imagination, the blind alleys followed, and the final resolution of the mysteries that had to be overcome on the road to unity. Like James Watson’s famous account The Double Helix, it has the immediacy and excitement of being on the trail of a monumental discovery — leading to a striking new scientific paradigm, the Standard Model of particle physics.


“Many books on the 20th-century revolution in particle physics focus on the startling new notions introduced. Not as much attention is paid to those who dirtied their hands, nursing crotchety accelerator instruments, in order to prove the conjectures. Mr. Riordan, a physicist affiliated with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, presents an authoritative account of this less-told tale. A veteran quark-stalker himself, he deftly combines his technical expertise with a journalistic flair, personally acquainting us with many of the men and women who joined in the hunt... Mr. Riordan enables us to behold exactly how physicists work and the tortuous paths that experimentalists must travel to gain just a scrap of insight into the puzzling laws of nature.” — Marcia Bartusiak, The New York Times

“A great book that I couldn’t put down even though I knew the plot.” —
Sheldon Glashow, Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, Emeritus, Harvard University, Nobel prize in physics (1979)

“Machines two miles long, pieces of matter elusive as lost souls, the likes of Richard Feynman ‘snooping around,’ reputations made and lost on the contumacious front lines of science — what a wonderful mix for a book. Particle physics has seemed arcane, the quark business most of all. Michael Riordan, who lives the story he tells, makes it lively, literate and accessible.” —
Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

“Mr. Riordan... understands the physics, but he also has an eye for the human comedy associated with the work. The result is a fine book on elementary particle physics.” — Jeremy Bernstein,
The New Yorker

“Riordan was an active participant in the search for the enigmatic quark, and his story reflects the excitement, passion and revelation of peeking into nature’s most elusive realm.” — Rudy Rucker,
San Francisco Chronicle

“An enjoyable book with enough good explanations and clear discussions to make it well worth reading both for the expert in modern high-energy physics and for the general reader.” — Alexander Firestone,
Physics Today

“A physicist with first-hand experience chasing quarks at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) relates the high points of the search for those elusive subatomic particles... Riordan builds a suspenseful tale around the neck-and-neck race between MIT/Brookhaven (Sam Ting) and Stanford (Burton Richter) in discovering the J/psi particle... Riordan’s epilogue is eloquent... Readers will... turn to Riordan for a close-in view and astute commentary on a pivotal period in 20th-century physics.” —
Kirkus