Book: A Thin Cosmic Rain (2000)
A scientific history of "cosmic rays" chronicles the discovery of a steady "rain" of atomic nuclei, beginning with the birth of subatomic particle physics in the 1890s and moving through the subsequent uncovering of muons, pions, kaons, hyperons, and other particles.
Enigmatic for many years, cosmic rays are now known to be not rays at all, but particles, the nuclei of atoms, raining down continually on the earth, where they can be detected throughout the atmosphere and sometimes even thousands of feet underground. This book tells the long-running detective story behind the discovery and study of cosmic rays, a story that stretches from the early days of subatomic particle physics in the 1890s to the frontiers of high-energy astrophysics today.
Writing for the amateur scientist and the educated general reader, Michael Friedlander, a cosmic ray researcher, relates the history of cosmic ray science from its accidental discovery to its present status. He explains how cosmic rays are identified and how their energies are measured, then surveys current knowledge and theories of thin cosmic rain. The most thorough, up-to-date, and readable account of these intriguing phenomena, his book makes us party to the search into the nature, behavior, and origins of cosmic rays--and into the sources of their enormous energy, sometimes hundreds of millions times greater than the energy achievable in the most powerful earthbound particle accelerators. As this search led unexpectedly to the discovery of new particles such as the muon, pion, kaon, and hyperon, and as it reveals scenes of awesome violence in the cosmos and offers clues about black holes, supernovas, neutron stars, quasars, and neutrinos, we see clearly why cosmic rays remain central to an astonishingly diverse range of research studies on scales infinitesimally small and large.
Attractively illustrated, engagingly written, this is a fascinating inside look at a science at the center of our understanding of our universe.
Table of Contents [Click triangle or this line.]1. The Early Days
2. Identifying Cosmic Rays
3. The Earth's Magnetic Influence
4. Particles from the Sun
5. Cosmic Rays in the Galaxy
6. The Energy Spectrum
7. Ultra-High Energies
8. Nuclear Clues
9. The Origin of Cosmic Rays
10. Cosmic Electrons and Gamma Rays
11. Cosmic Neutrinos
12. The Subnuclear World
13. Footprints and Souvenirs
The book was an alternate selection-of-the-month for the Astronomy Book Club.
Reviews and Publicity
- A different blurb, this one from Publisher's Weekly, this one a bit more breathless.
- Fall 2000 Harvard University Press catalog: page about the book
Harvard University Press listing for "A Thin Cosmic Rain"
including a collection of nine review excerpts.
- New Scientist review by Arnold Wolfendale, 18 Nov 2000. [The critiques of this review may be a partial return for a harsh review by Michael of Dr. Wolfendale's own "Cosmic Rays" book in the January 1963 edition of Physics Today nearly 40 years prior.]
- "Campus Authors," Washington Univ Record, 21 March 2003. (brief interview)
- Amazon reviews and listing
- Physics Today review by Frank C. Jones, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. This is a generally favorable, but still hard-hitting review from another expert in the field. I (David) knew Frank almost from the beginning of my career at NASA/Goddard, for his office was around the corner from mine. He was kind to me as a junior colleague, and I came to consider him a friend.
- Review (short) by David DeVorkin, Isis (University of Chicago Press), Vol 95, No 1, 2004.
Unusual citations and references
Book review by J. Donald Cossairt
Health Physics Society Journal, Vol 80, No 4, April 2001.
The review itself was not visible here, but the fact that it was of interest to the readers of this journal is interesting.
Cosmic Rays—A Review for Astrobiologists by Franco Ferrari and Ewa Szuszkiewicz
Astrobiology, Vol 9, No 4, 2009.
This article was found on the web site of the University of Groningen (Netherlands) Academy for Radiation Protection (https://www.rug.nl/education/courses/other-education/radiation-protection/).
Catching Cosmic Rays with a DSLR
Astronomy Education Review, v9, n1, December 2010.
A Portable Cosmic Ray Detector for Engineering, IoT, and Science Research
17th Annual IEEE International Conference on Electro/Information Technology
At: Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, May 2018.