A surprising, fascinating journey through the experiments that not only unlocked the nature of matter and shaped our understanding of the cosmos but also forever changed the way we live within it
"A book about the fundamental problems of physics written from a viewpoint I hadn’t come across before: that of the experimenter. A splendid idea, vividly carried out.” –Philip Pullman, best-selling author of His Dark Materials
Physics has always sought to deepen our understanding of the nature of matter and the world around us. But how do you conduct experiments with the fundamental building blocks of existence? How do you manipulate a particle a trillion times smaller than a grain of sand? How do you cause a proton to sail around a twenty-seven-kilometer-long loop 11,000 times per second? And, crucially, why is all this important?
In The Matter of Everything, accelerator physicist Suzie Sheehy introduces us to the people who, through a combination of genius, persistence and luck, staged the experiments that changed the course of history. From the serendipitous discovery of X-rays in a German laboratory to the scientists trying to prove Einstein wrong (and inadvertently proving him right) to the race to split open the atom, these brilliant experiments led to some of the most significant breakthroughs in science and fundamentally changed our lives. They have helped us detect the flow of lava deep inside volcanoes, develop life-saving medical techniques like diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy, and create radio, TV, microwaves, smartphones—even the World Wide Web itself—among countless other advancements.
Along the way, Sheehy pulls back the curtain to reveal how physics is really done—not only by theorists with equation-filled blackboards but also by experimentalists with hand-blown glass, hot air balloons and cathedral-sized electronics. Celebrating human ingenuity, creativity and above all curiosity, The Matter of Everything is an inspiring story of discovery and a powerful reminder that progress is a function of our desire to know.