Reviews & Previews

Book Review: Voyage to the Heart of Matter: The Atlas Experiment at CERN by Anton Radevksy and Emma Sanders

Review by Ron Cowen

1:32pm, May 21, 2010
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Understanding the intricacies of subatomic physics isn’t easy, but in this book the concepts literally leap off the page. The pop-up story about the world’s largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, provides a 3-D tour of the 27-kilometer underground racetrack for colliding protons that straddles the countryside between France and Switzerland.

Author Emma Sanders and paper engineer Anton Radevsky worked with scientists from the ATLAS experiment, one of the four main sets of detectors at the collider, to produce the text and illustrations for the book. Sanders’ descriptions of the cavernous particle accelerator, the different types of detectors used by ATLAS to find subatomic particles and the superconducting magnets that make the proton collisions possible mesh well with the pop-up pictures.

Even a reader familiar with the collider’s design and goals — re-creating the enormous energies and temperatures present just a sliver of a second after the Big Bang — will get a fresh appreciation of the gargantuan effort required to produce and detect a spray of particles like those generated during the birth of the universe.

Pop-up illustrations also show the fundamental constituents of matter, the universe as it appeared at less than a billionth of a second old and the weblike arrangement of galaxies. Readers can try their hand at assembling a paper model of part of the ATLAS experiment; unfortunately, the instructions proved fairly difficult to follow. And indeed, the book is not intended for the very young but for curious older children — perhaps 10 and up — and young-at-heart adults.

Papadakis Publisher, 2010, 8 p., $37.50.

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