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Michael W. Friedlander
A Thin Cosmic Rain: Particles from Outer Space

I was hoping for a bit more than I got from A Thin Cosmic Rain. Friedlander's account is generally uninspiring and dull. I must admit, however, that I did somewhat enjoy two of the last three chapters (and the Epilogue is a decent summary). But these highlights were appealing to me more for subject matter than for brilliance in writing style.

Friedlander looks at the history of cosmic particle detection, where they come from (mostly supernovas) and what happens to them as they roam around the galaxy, the different kinds of cosmic rays and their relative ratios, how we measure them, and things of this nature. Some of the discussion is too dry and technical for the vast majority of us not working in the field. Chapter 11, on how we know about probable neutrino mass, is surprisingly good and relevant though. And cosmic rain influence on radiometric dating in Chapter 13 is also interesting.

So while the topic has its interesting aspects, and I'm sure there are more out there that Friedlander touched upon only lightly or omitted, a more zealous rendition of this important area of research that will appeal to a larger audience is needed.

from the publisher:
Enigmatic for many years, cosmic rays are now known to be not rays at all, but particles, the nuclei of atoms, raining down continually on the earth, where they can be detected throughout the atmosphere and sometimes even thousands of feet underground. This book tells the long-running detective story behind the discovery and study of cosmic rays, a story that stretches from the early days of subatomic particle physics in the 1890s to the frontiers of high-energy astrophysics today.

Writing for the amateur scientist and the educated general reader, Michael Friedlander, a cosmic ray researcher, relates the history of cosmic ray science from its accidental discovery to its present status. He explains how cosmic rays are identified and how their energies are measured, then surveys current knowledge and theories of thin cosmic rain. The most thorough, up-to-date, and readable account of these intriguing phenomena, his book makes us party to the search into the nature, behavior, and origins of cosmic rays--and into the sources of their enormous energy, sometimes hundreds of millions times greater than the energy achievable in the most powerful earthbound particle accelerators. As this search led unexpectedly to the discovery of new particles such as the muon, pion, kaon, and hyperon, and as it reveals scenes of awesome violence in the cosmos and offers clues about black holes, supernovas, neutron stars, quasars, and neutrinos, we see clearly why cosmic rays remain central to an astonishingly diverse range of research studies on scales infinitesimally small and large.

Attractively illustrated, engagingly written, this is a fascinating inside look at a science at the center of our understanding of our universe.

"In his engaging description of energetic particles from outer space, Professor Friedlander has brought the exotic cosmic rays down to earth. He has shown how the galactic cosmic rays are intimately connected to a wide variety of natural phenomena, ranging from elementary particles to stellar explosions."
--Maurice M. Shapiro, Laboratory for Cosmic Physics at the Naval Research Laboratory, International School of Cosmic-Ray Astrophysics, and the University of Maryland

"A complete account of the phenomena and participants involved with unraveling the mysteries of the cosmic rays--from their early key role in particle physics, to the current quest for the astrophysical origins and nature of the highest energy particles known in nature"
--Jonathan E. Grindlay, Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University

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