Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy

Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy

by Frank Close


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It was at the height of the Cold War, in the summer of 1950, when Bruno Pontecorvo mysteriously vanished behind the Iron Curtain. Who was he, and what caused him to disappear? Was he simply a physicist, or also a spy and communist radical? A protégé of Enrico Fermi, Pontecorvo was one of the most promising nuclear physicists in the world. He spent years hunting for the Higgs boson of his day—the neutrino—a nearly massless particle thought to be essential to the process of particle decay. His work on the Manhattan Project helped to usher in the nuclear age, and confirmed his reputation as a brilliant physicist. Why, then, would he disappear as he stood on the cusp of true greatness, perhaps even the Nobel Prize?

In Half-Life, physicist and historian Frank Close offers a heretofore untold history of Pontecorvo's life, based on unprecedented access to Pontecorvo's friends and family and the Russian scientists with whom he would later work. Close takes a microscope to Pontecorvo's life, combining a thorough biography of one of the most important scientsts of the twentieth century with the drama of Cold War espionage. With all the elements of a Cold War thriller—classified atomic research, an infamous double agent, a possible kidnapping by Soviet operatives—Half-Life is a history of nuclear physics at perhaps its most powerful: when it created the bomb.physics at perhaps its most powerful: when it created the bomb.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465069989
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Frank Close is a professor of physics at the University of Oxford. A longtime science writer, Close is the author of many books, including The Infinity Puzzle, Neutrino, Nothing, The Void, and The Cosmic Onion. He lives in Abingdon, England.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Midway on Life’s Journey

1. From Pisa to Rome
2. Slow Neutrons and Fast Reactions: 1934–1936
3. Paris and Politics: 1936–1940
4. The First Escape: 1940
5. Neutrons for Oil and War: 1940–1941
6. East and West: 1941–1942
7. The Pile at Chalk River: 1943–1945
8. Physics in the Open: 1945–1948
9. Maneuvers: 1945–1950

West to East

10. Chain Reaction: 1949–1950
11. From Abingdon—to Where? 1950
12. The Dear Departed: 1950
13. The M15 Letters

14. In Dark Woods
15. Exile
16. Resurrection
17. Mr. Neutrino
18. Private Bruno

19. The Right Road Lost

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A Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing scientists, amazing spies, amazing book. The author does physics justice aalong with a truely "excitable" spy story. With paranoia reigning high in the West as well as East after WWII, this author presents the persistence of scientists to engage each other whatver their geo-political situation. I never felt too lost with the physics that another read can't help but improve my understanding of this lovely universe. This book has wet my appetite to read the whole series. DG in Phoenix