Half-Life: Book summary and reviews of Half-Life by Frank Close

Half-Life

The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy

by Frank Close

Half-Life by Frank Close X
Half-Life by Frank Close
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2015
    400 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

Bruno Pontecorvo dedicated his career to hunting for the Higgs boson of his day: the neutrino, a nearly massless particle considered essential to the process of nuclear fission. His work on the Manhattan project under Enrico Fermi confirmed his reputation as a brilliant physicist and helped usher in the nuclear age. He should have won a Nobel Prize, but late in the summer of 1950 he vanished. At the height of the Cold War, Pontecorvo had disappeared behind the Iron Curtain.

In Half-Life, physicist and historian Frank Close offers a heretofore untold history of Pontecorvo's life, based on unprecedented access to his friends, family, and colleagues. With all the elements of a Cold War thriller - classified atomic research, an infamous double agent, a kidnapping by Soviet operatives - Half-Life is a history of particle physics at perhaps its most powerful: when it created the bomb.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Close serves Pontecorvo well in this outstanding biography, illuminating his work as well as the painful political conflicts of his time. " - Publishers Weekly

"A fine account, heavy on science and politics, of a long, productive, peripatetic and ultimately inexplicable life." - Kirkus

"This fascinating and well-researched account will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those interested in World War II and the foundation of the Manhattan Project, the Cold War, particle physics, the process of scientific investigation, and the life of scientists." - Library Journal

"Weaving together a fascinating personal life and the politics of the Cold War with his usual insightful exposition of physics, Close has produced a triumph of scientific biography. For once, truth really is stranger than fiction." - John Gribbin, author of In Search of Schrödinger's Cat

" Impeccably researched, Half-Life masterfully illuminates its shadowy target, offering a lucid assessment of Bruno Pontecorvo's vital scientific contributions." - Paul Halpern, author of Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat

"Frank Close sheds fascinating new light on a complicated man and the legacy he left behind." - David Kaiser, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics

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Author Information

Frank Close

Frank Close is professor of physics at the University of Oxford. A longtime science writer, Close is a past recipient of the Kelvin Medal from the Institute of Physics for his contributions to the public understanding of physics. He is the author of many books, including Neutrino, Nothing, The Void, and The Cosmic Onion, and has written or presented for Nature, the BBC, and other media outlets.

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