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The Matter of Everything

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Member Reviews

I felt like I almost needed to do some homework before tackling this one. I expected it to be more for a casual reader and I struggled with that a bit. So while I think it's very well written and hugely informative, a consideration on how the book is marketed might be worthwhile as this one was simply not for me I'm afraid.
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Really enjoyed this explanation of some of the key experiments that have had huge impact in the world of physics. Nicely written, not a casual read but worth the time to really immerse myself in.
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This book on Nuclear Physics was much more digestible than the somewhat academic works of Sir Steven Hawking. The author set out to explain stage by stage how Nuclear Physics evolved through practical experiments and the discovery of what matter is composed of. The reader should have a basic understanding of Physics to follow the thread of the history and a little bit of watching the Star Trek series helps as well! A good read for those with an interest in the subject.
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For anyone with a better understanding of physics, I can imagine this book being a treasure trove of fascinating historical facts about their field. However, I struggled with this one. I generally enjoy history of science and especially how scientific thought has developed over time, but I don't have a background in science myself. I do have experience in scientific communication, though, and can appreciate that it is tricky. Finding the right balance between accurate information and keeping everything understandable for a lay reader is hard. This book erred on the side of precise, scientific explanations, and I often felt overwhelmed by the level of detail here. From context cues, it was obvious that certain changes to an experiment, for example, were revolutionary, but as I know nothing about physics, the importance of those changes were completely lost on me, and therefore I had trouble engaging with the story outlined here.
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I love reading non fiction especially if I think it can improve my own knowledge hence choosing this book about 12 experiments that changed the course of history. I really wanted to enjoy this book but it was, at times, too technical and too much jargon for an average lay person to read.
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The Matter of everything - twelve experiments that changed our world. This is a beautifully written, accessible book about how scientifc discoveries and breakthroughs have changed our lives and changed our world, and without the genious, luck, endeavour and sheer hard work and persistence of all those involved we would not have had radio, TV, x-rays, MRI scanners to name but a few.
I can't pretend to have understood everything, but Suzie Sheehy has made a difficult and dry subject hugely interesting and enlightening.
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Not my usual book type but I actually enjoyed it. I found it to be informative and interesting. Would recommend whether you like physics or not
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The story of the atom and quantum mechanics has been written many times, but usually, it is the theorists who take the glory and the experimentalists who play second fiddle. Here the roles are reversed with the lab workers cast in the starring role and the theoreticians their support act.

This book started quite slowly for me with a very familiar tale of the story of the discovery of the nature of the atom, starting with Röntgen and X-rays, and progressing to the discovery of the electrons and then the nucleus. But gradually a pattern began to emerge: usually, it is the theorists who take the glory and the experimentalists who play second fiddle. Here the roles are reversed with the lab workers cast in the starring role and the theoreticians their support act. Theoreticians like Bohr, Schrodinger, Planck and Einstein barely get a mention.

As the book progresses, the experiments gradually get more complicated and start to involve more people and require massive amounts of organisation of funding. I remember doing variants of some of the early experiments myself on a lab workbench in my days as a Physics undergraduate, but the days when a brilliant individual can break new ground in particle physics in the corner of a lab have, it would seem, long disappeared.

In reality, each of the experimentalists is drawing on the work of those before them (standing on the shoulders of giants as Newton said) and Suzie Sheehy has made a good job at making this a near-continuous narrative of discoveries built upon their predecessors.

Again and again, in every chapter, the author points out the technology spin-offs of the search for the understanding of matter, and the list is very impressive, and nobody should question the value of funding first-class research in these areas.

It looks like Dark Matter is where the next progress is likely to be made, and it is extraordinary how, despite all the work described in the book, and the brilliant lives devoted to research, there is so much which is not understood.

If there is a theme to a book for me it was: look at all this we have achieved, and we have to continue. 

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4681152949
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In The Matter of Everything, accelerator physicist Suzie Sheehy introduces us to the people who, through a combination of genius, persistence and luck, staged these ground-breaking experiments. From the physicists who soared in hot air balloons on the trail of new particles, to the serendipitous discovery of X-rays in a German lab; and from the race to split open the atomic nucleus to the quest to find the third generation of matter, Sheehy shows how these experiments informed innumerable aspects of how we live today. Radio, TV, the chips in our smartphones, MRI scanners, radar equipment and microwaves, to name a few: these were all made possible by our determination to understand, and control, the microscopic.

Pulling physics down from the theoretical and putting it in the hands of the people, The Matter of Everything is a celebration of human ingenuity, creativity and curiosity: a powerful reminder that progress relies on the desire to know.
A very interesting book I’m sure I’ll come back to.
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I was looking forward to reading this book as I struggle with many of the concepts in physics and was hoping to understand more, particularly as they often seem to describe the very essence of life.
I imagine as an author it is very difficult to pitch a book like this at the right level for most readers and  unfortunately this wasn't the book to help me  as I think I need a better level of understanding to start with and  I felt a bit lost even in the author's introduction.  I'm not sure if it was just my particular downloaded copy but I also struggled with sudden changes from experiments to biography of the scientist involved and their hairstyle. (part 1)
I tried dipping in and out but sadly in the end I didn't finish the book. I'm sure many other readers will really enjoy it though.
thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an advance copy of this book
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This is a book that made me love physic even this topic is not amongst my favorite.
It's fascinating, well researched, informative, and well written.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I found this so interesting. Physics was the only subject I failed in school, if Dr Suzie Sheehy had been my teacher I'd have passed with flying colours. Such a fascinating subject, told in such an interesting an enjoyable way.
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A fascinating journey detailing ground breaking physics that has shaped the world as we know it. You are able to appreciate the work and breakthroughs of the scientists. Eye opening.
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I am in absolute awe at how amazingly complex our universe is, but also at how extraordinary we are as a species.

The Matter of Everything is a tour de force of some of the most important physics discoveries we have ever made. Suzie Sheehy has a way with words, making extremely complex theories and experiments seem not only accessible to truly fascinating. From the historical context, to the actual experiments, to the implications and the far and wide applications of this discoveries, nothing has been left out. Sheehy did a brilliant job at making us understand and see how amazing science is, and how physics is so interconnect with everything else. How important it is to cooperate, to pull together resources and mental capacity and human energies to help humanity become richer in knowledge. Knowledge that ultimately will translate in a better life for more and more people.
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A comprehensive and informative guide that is well written. It explores the advances and applications of physics in everyday life, tracking historical advancements and how they have been built on.
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This book is a pleasure to read whether you are interested in science or not. Twelve great stories that just happen to be  about physics. The authors enthusiasm and passion shine through in her telling of each groundbreaking development in this subject.
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Interesting book to learn more about physics and in particular particle physics.  The author is an accelerator physicist and brings us through a journey or physics discoveries from early 1900’s to date.  
In general I struggled to understand the various theories outlined, often in huge detail in the book.  I heard words such as muons and top and bottom quarks, that I’d never hear of before.  And learnt about 27 mile long underground tunnels where experiments are undertaken.  
What is fascinating, is the evolution of physics experiments from the early days of individuals building their own equipment to test ideas to todays mega laboratories with 100’s of countries and 1,000’s of scientists collaborating to try and better understand the world around us.  
So if you are interested in this area of physics and are interested in the detail and the history of how it came about, this is a great read.  It is a struggle if you are coming to this area fresh, although hard to see how author could have done a better job.  I think it is great to have the development and history recorded in such and interesting way.
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I am struggling to carry on reading this book. I did wonder whether it would be beyond my comprehension as I find science difficult but interesting. The book is written in a very accessible way and it is interesting, but it's just the experiments and fine detail of how someone got to a place they weren't expecting and then going on from there that I am finding hard to cope with. I hope to finish reading the book at some point, but for now I am taking a rest from boiling my brain. With thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a review copy of this book.
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Who knew physics could be so much fun! I never realised that physics underpins so many important discoveries, from hot air balloon flights to the discovery of X rays and smart phone chips.  What makes this book so readable is that you see it from the side of the innovative scientists who made these discoveries. The human aspect is well told and invites you to keep reading what could have been a dry and unappealing subject.  Try it and learn about physics in an easy-to read way.
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Dr Suzie Sheehy (as she never styles herself in the book), is a particle accelerator physicist and - here - as elsewhere a science communicator. Luckily in The Matter Of Everything she is communicating about her precise subject, particle physics, and attempting in a history of twelve experiments to justify its existence. There is much of the book where she  pulls back a curtain on a world of consumer goods and a whole host of cancer treatments   and just says look at what you have won by backing this horse. And then she pulls the curtain back, describes the development of yet another particle accelerator and wants to yell at you - "but isn't this amazing". She doesn't yell, the book manages to just about walk the tightrope of popular science of trying to keep the reader up with mind-blowing developments on the tiniest scale, but she also knows this stuff costs money.

It is not her fault that the book falls broadly into two distinct phases. The first half is a pretty breathless race through the discovery of the building blocks of the universe. The atom, then the electrons and then  - well we keep going. And the jerry rigged experiments of the early stage, the scientists building cloud chambers on magners, naturally hits the second half where the scientific industrial complex builds bigger and bigger accelerators, colliders and cyclotrons (sadly by this point he word Jumbotron was already taken). She also almost paints herself into a corner by being trapped by the great man view of history 9No matter how many great women she tries to rescue). Her real conclusion, at the very end is all about co-operation. That if particle science can teach us anything its that none of these advances were made in a vacuum*, that they were made in the spirit of co-operation, massive teamwork and scientific excitement - which sometimes the tale of Rutherford in the Cavendish Lab doesn't always bring out.

You're stuck with the history you have, and by the time we get to the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs-Boson, we are on the fifth iteration of the same story. And yet in her conclusion, she casually drops in the fact that we don't know what 95% of the mass of the universe is made up of (Dark Matter is still a near complete mystery). Its in many ways an odd conclusion to put together, she obviously wants to dazzle us with the beauty of science, but also lets us know that if we become scientists, we will also gain the skills to become successful entrepreneurs of or work in finance. That slight hint of desperation is understandable, those next leaps almost certainly come from an even bigger collider with the kind of price tag no individual country is picking up. Not even for a glimpse past that curtain at even better microwaves. Its fascinating stuff, brought to life, but its that wistful pause at the end that really got to me. The end of scence really is when we stop paying for it.


*Some were made in a vacuum tube.
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