Follow Here To Purchase Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

Author: Michael Hiltzik

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7575-7

While a background and interest in science would be helpful before tackling this book, it’s not imperative.  The author’s ability to relate to the reader is clearly evident in his painstaking research, solid footnotes, well-executed index and helpful bibliography.  However, familiarity with some specific scientific terminology and related people would be helpful to have before getting into the book:

Peter Higgs one of six physicists who proposed the mechanism that suggested the existence of the Higgs boson.   Higgs boson - an elementary particle believed to explain almost everything in the world other than gravity often called ‘the God particle.’ Particle Physics - the branch of physics that studies the nature of particles which constitute matter and radiation. Cyclotron - a type of particle accelerator in which charged particles accelerating out from the center along a spiral path are held to a spiral trajectory by a static magnetic field and accelerated by a rapidly varying electric field that revolutionized nuclear physics and ultimately helped win WW11.  Berkley Radiation Lab - founded by Ernest Lawrence in 1931 centering around the cyclotron.  Big Science - a term which guides the greatest scientific research projects of all time: the atomic bomb, robots, microcosmic investigations of nature, the cyclotron etc.  Manhattan Project - a research and development project that ultimately produced the first nuclear weapons during WW11.  Ernest Lawrence - Well-respected by peers for his optimism, hard work, emphasis on collaborative teamwork, ability to fundraise and brilliance, physicist Ernest Lawrence’s contributions to the world of science were notable: entrepreneurial leadership in the development of Big Science; contributions to nuclear physics, WW11 efforts, the Manhattan Project and the Cold War period; inventor of the cyclotron for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939.  

Pulitzer-winning journalist and author Michael Hiltzik has tackled a large topic with insight, solid research and enthusiasm.  Writing for a ‘general’ rather than ‘science’ audience, Hiltzik doesn’t go into deep scientific explanations of the “how, what, why” of quantum physics, engineering challenges or particle physics.   Gratefully.   

Rather, he has written an ‘overview’ rather than a pointed biography, detailed or argued historical description of the various threads that brought about the transition from ‘small science’ to ‘big science.‘   

Informative - solidly researched and well-written, Big Science gently sheds light into the world of science that often intrigues, confuses and mystifies.  Hiltzik transforms an often-unapproachable and misunderstood subject into a fascinating and insightful read.