Books : reviews

Mark Bowen.
The Telescope in the Ice: inventing a new astronomy at the south pole.
St Martin's Press. 2017

Scientific American has called IceCube the “weirdest” of the seven wonders of modern astronomy. In The Telescope in the Ice, Mark Bowen tells the inspiring story of this technological tour de force, carried out under some of the most extreme conditions on the planet by a crew of visionary scientists. It’s the inside story of the people who built the instrument, the mistakes they made, the blind alleys they went down, the solutions they found, their conflicts, and their teamwork. It’s a success story.

Located at the geographic South Pole, IceCube is unlike most telescopes in that it is not designed to detect light. It employs a cubic kilometer of diamond-clear ice, more than a mile beneath the surface, to detect an elementary particle known as the neutrino. In 2010, it detected the first extraterrestrial high-energy neutrinos and thus gave birth to a new field of astronomy. This instrument can also do pure particle physics, and since the neutrino is one of the strangest and most unfathomable of the known elementary particles, neutrino physics is one of the most active fields in particle physics today.