The Particle Connection
Chris Quigg

The Particle Connection: The Most Exciting Scientific Chase Since DNA and the Double Helix. By Christine Sutton. 175 pp. Simon and Schuster, 1984. $16.95.

The discovery in 1983 of the intermediate bosons W and Z, the carriers of the weak interaction, in experiments at the CERN laboratory in Geneva climaxed a fifty-year saga. The long path led from Fermi's early description of nuclear beta decay through the evolution of the universal V-A interaction and on to the development of gauge theories of the fundamental interactions. In search of the intermediate boson, experimentalists developed powerful new techniques and opened new fields, including high-energy neutrino scattering and the study of leptons produced in proton-proton collisions. These in turn helped lead to the discovery of neutral weak currents and of charm, which themselves became essential elements of the "standard model" of weak and electromagnetic interactions.

The ultimate discovery required the adventurous conversion of CERN's Super Proton Synchrotron into a storage ring in which counter-rotating beams of protons and antiprotons collide at high energies, and the mounting of large and intricate experimental devices, involving hundreds of physicists, engineers, and technicians. The CERN discoveries earned the 1984 Nobel Prize for Carlo Rubbia, the animator of the enterprise and leader of the UA-1 collaboration, and for Simon van der Meer, whose accelerator artistry made high-energy collisions of protons and antiprotons a reality.

Christine Sutton, an editor of the British journal New Scientist and herself trained in experimental particle physics has given an accessible account of the logic of modern physics and the discovery of the intermediate bosons. Her book is not the definitive history of elther, however. Physicists will find Sutton's intellectual history of the subject slightly annoying, because its smoothness loses some of the drama of our past, but the account is not seriously misleading. More regrettably, the discussion of the CERN experiments, though breathless in tone, misses the flesh-and-blood excitement of the chase. The book tells in straightforward style what happened, but does not bring to life the characters involved or reveal how research is actually done. It is a reasonable factual introduction, but is unlikely to be found inspirational.

Chris Quigg, Theoretical Physics, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Published in American Scientist 73, 476 (1985).