Unlike previous reviewers (Woit, Hossenfelder, Du Pree, Giammanco, Shears, Durig), Gavin has more to criticize than to praise about the book. Although I think most of the points he raises are sound, there are some comments to make about them. I will mention the main issues in this post, by quoting from his article and providing my own answers.
1. Unnecessary detail
There are some real gems of particle-physics folklore in here. But, like many good ideas in the hunt for the top quark, they are buried under a mountain of unnecessary technical detail, and herein lies the problem I found with this book. The warning signs come early in the “introductory” chapters: the third paragraph in the book is already discussing the vectorial analysis of angular momentum and its quantum analogue.
Gavin is right, the book contains lots of detail about the way particle physics is really done in a large HEP experiment. Is it unnecessary ? Well, probably for a general reader they indeed are redundant, and even complex to read and distracting from what is generally perceived as "the main goal" of the book - the one of providing a glimpse at the way physicists interact and how they deal with a large collaborative effort and their personal aims. However, I wrote the book also because I wanted to document the story of an experiment, and make it in a way that was understandable to a general reader. So I was bound to, e.g., explain what the physics of elementary particles is, and provide the details that are needed to allow anybody to really understand the issues being discussed, without treating him or her like a child fed with sound bites and oversimplified tales. Maybe this is too tall an order, and in fact the book is not very simple to read for a layperson devoid of pre-existing knowledge on the matter. But let us see what is the paragraph Gavin refers to: it is page 2 of my book.
Subatomic particles come in two very different varieties, depending on an intrinsic property they possess called spin. Mathematically spin is a vector, i.e. a quantity oriented along some direction in space. Spin behaves like angular momentum, the vector used in classical mechanics to describe the rotation of a body around some axis. Yet for elementary particles, that follow the rules of quantum mechanics, spin is not to be mistaken for the rotation of the body around itself. Spin in quantum mechanics is measured in units of h-bar, the so-called “reduced Planck constant.” If one counts spin in h-bar units one observes a very different behavior in particles possessing integer and half-integer spin. Particles with integer spin are called bosons. The rules of quantum mechanics show that the presence of a boson in a point of space makes it more probable to find in its whereabouts additional identical bosons. In contrast, particles with a half-integer value of spin, called fermions, behave the opposite way: the presence of a fermion in a point of space mathematically excludes the possibility to find there a second one with identical properties. The solitude of fermions is one of the most important ingredients of atomic physics: electrons, the fermions we are most familiar with, can occupy the same orbit around a nucleus at most in pairs, when only their oppositely-aligned spins make them distinguishable. This principle, first recognized by Wolfgang Pauli, forces electrons to occupy larger and larger orbits pairwise; as a result, atoms with a different number of electrons display different chemical properties. Without Pauli’s principle all electrons would settle in the lowest-energy orbit around atomic nuclei; that way, chemistry would be trivial and life would not exist!
So yes, this is a thick paragraph describing detailed properties of particles - unnecessary detail. I disagree that this is unnecessary. I did explain in the introduction that "readers already familiar with high-energy physics might consider skipping chapters 1 and 2 altogether", but really this book is meant to allow non-experts to understand the issues. If they don't know the difference between a fermion and a boson, I am sorry, but they will not really understand - they might be deceived to think that they do, but that's not what I tried to do in my book.
2. A missed opportunity
There is plenty of food for thought here, and given that these events happened 20 years ago, more reflection would have been welcome. Do people like Giromini play a useful role in large collaborations to keep everyone on their toes, or are they just a distraction? When the media catch on to the rumours of a potential discovery, does the prospect of a quick headline interfere with the scientific process?
Given that none of Giromini’s claims have stood the test of time, were his fellow CDF scientists right to be cautious? These are fascinating topics that remain relevant to particle physics and many other areas of science today. But as Dorigo’s narrative remains fixed in the moment, many episodes in the book remain unresolved and the implications unexplored. In the end, this felt like a missed opportunity to tell a fascinating tale of life on the cutting edge of science.
Well, I think this is a non sequitur. It is true - the book narrates the episodes, and does not delve in Gavin's preferred topic of addressing the implications, provide a judgement, offer guidance and perspective. But I do not see why not going there means failing to "tell a fascinating tale of life on the cutting edge of science", which is exactly what the book does provide - unlike others on the market, as many other reviewers have pointed out, or as Gavin himself somehow concedes elsewhere in his review:
But unlike many books about particle physics, Dorigo offers a glimpse into the working life of some of the 600-strong team on CDF, and the handful of characters trying to steer the ship – often in different directions.
Alas, the questions posed by Gavin above are really interesting, and I would indeed have loved writing about them too. But they would have required the writing of another book to be addressed, or rather, 300 more pages of Anomaly!. My editor would not have liked the idea, unfortunately. So yes, these are good points, but I think they have more to do with Gavin's expectations about what he would have liked to read in my book, than with what the book does promise to deliver.
In any case, I thank Gavin Hesketh for his take, and for the insightful comments. I hope they will be useful to allow the readers of Physics World to make up their mind about whether they might like the book: I sure do not wish to disappoint anybody!
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 purchase a copy of the book by clicking on the book cover in the column on the right.