(Review by John Duffield):
Tommaso Dorigo’s Anomaly! tells the fascinating inside story of the CDF collaboration at Fermilab. It’s full of warming candid anecdotes that tell of a day in the life of a particle physicist. Dorigo talks of hunters and gatherers, dangerously low nicotine levels, and large egos. He also explains physics matters with very clear analogies. For example he describes luminosity in terms of a cavern, he talks of collisions in terms of bottles, and he likens higher energies to digging deeper holes to learn about the lie of the land. He gives crystal clear descriptions of the Tevatron and its CDF detector, describing the central tracking cylinder embedded in a superconducting solenoid, along with the electromagnetic calorimeter, the hadronic calorimeter, and the muon detector. The book is dripping with facts. I didn’t know muons could penetrate 60cm of steel. Or that 99.98% of events were immediately discarded. Or that the confirmation of three-quark model came by discovering the fourth quark.
However what sets the book apart is the fly-on-the-wall narrative that describes the colourful characters and events. Dorigo tells of the two Italians on the cherry picker with the “sacred sword”, a long steel rod filled with caesium 137. The rear end “touched the terminals of the electrical battery powering the vehicle, lodged at its base. The ensuing short-circuit ignited the solder cap of the hollow rod. The caesium powder, released from the interior, got vaporized or dispersed on the ground of the assembly hall. Horrified, the researchers immediately extinguished the fire and rushed to the restrooms to wash themselves, thereby further spreading the contamination, and only then called Fermilab security”.
There’s more of course. There’s Revenge of the Slimeballs, which talks about the rivalry with SLAC and how John Peoples fought for the fast-track treatment from Physical Review Letters. There’s Never Give Talk After Brian Green, where Paul Tipton had to watch his words and suffer the unwelcome sucking sound of the conference hall suddenly getting half-emptied. And there’s the story of the discovery of the top quark, where CDF and DZERO crossed the finish line in perfect synchrony. There’s also jaw-dropping towering three-bin peaks, jets v QCD, along with Preon Dreams and the Media Storm. Plus rivalry with CERN. And of course, a great deal of internal rivalry and dissent. CDF was a collaboration that wanted to be seen as united and reliable and trustworthy, and did not want to produce speculative papers about squarks based on flimsy evidence. There was friction, like there always is. This book tells you about it. It's a gold mine of inside information, with warts and all. I like this sort of stuff. Particularly since particle physics is now in the nightmare scenario. Particularly since the Standard Model “needs to be replaced by a deeper more fundamental theory”. Particularly since the story is told in such an easy-reading fashion that I felt like I was there. In his introduction Dorigo said his goal was to teach some physics in an entertaining way rather than contribute to the history of physics. He was wrong. This book contributes to the history of physics. And it is well worth a read.
Tommaso Dorigo is an experimental particle physicist, who works for the INFN at the University of Padova, and collaborates with the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC. He coordinates the European network AMVA4NewPhysics as well as research in accelerator-based physics for INFN-Padova, and is an editor of the journal Reviews in Physics. In 2016 Dorigo published the book “Anomaly! Collider physics and the quest for new phenomena at Fermilab”. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon.