The Matter of Everything: A History of Discovery

Suzie Sheehy

Bloomsbury 2022
A book review by Danny Yee © 2023
From Röntgen to the Large Hadron Collider, The Matter of Everything tells the story of key discoveries in modern atomic and particle physics, with a focus on the key experiments and experimental systems, the engineering and industrial innovation involved in getting those to work, and the spinoffs, especially in medical imaging.

It provides only a very broad outline of the theories that motivated those experiments, and indeed is light on technical details of any kind. Not only are there no equations, but there are no diagrams either, so those with no background may have some trouble visualising how a synchrotron works, for example, or just how big CERN is.

There are bits of biography, but Sheehy's emphasis is on teams and collaborations. She gives some space to less well known figures, not just the Nobel prize winners and other stars, touches on the the social structure of CERN and the integration of its science and scientists into the broader community, and so forth.

"we usually only hear the stories of the few theoretical physicists rather than the teams of experimentalists, engineers and others needed to actually make discoveries like resonance particles and the omega minus happen"

The Matter of Everything had a fair bit in it that was new to me: even where it traverses well-trodden territory it takes a different route to most popular science explorations. And Sheehy stitches accessible and engaging stories together into a coherent broader narrative.

November 2023

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%T The Matter of Everything: A History of Discovery
%A Sheehy, Suzie
%I Bloomsbury
%D 2022
%O paperback, notes, index
%G ISBN-13 9781526618993
%P 313pp