The Hunting of the Quark follows the development of particle physics, tracing from the development of the concept of the atom through to the first evidence of the quark. Probably the most noticable thing about this book, is it is not a book which should be read without some prior background in the subject matter, or at least taking a large number of notes. It is very easy to get lost in the discussions of the large number of different subatomic particles, even before the book begins to discuss quarks (which add another level of complexity - you had better remember what a hadron is when you get to this point). At the same time, once it moves into the area of quarks the explanations get somewhat better - or perhaps the names are just easier to remember.

What makes this book worth the read is the detail it goes into about many of those involved - Sam Ting the scientist who found the first resonances that proved the existence of charm quarks (the J resonance) but failed to publish quickly enough to get all the credit, and the competitor’s at SLAC’s celebrations and “tourists” that came with their more open discovery of the resonance. This book also explains how the term “color” came to be used to describe the force that binds quarks together, and reveals how this force is able to grow stronger the greater the distance - unlike other forces that get weaker the greater the distance.

For anyone who has some knowledge of particle physics and is interested in the story of particle physics up to the point that quarks were proved to exist, Michael Riordan’s The Hunting of the Quark is a worthwhile read.

The Hunting of the Quark (Amazon)