Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino

Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino, by Leonard A Cole (World Specific, 271 pp)

A mixture of memoir and biography, Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino tells a deeply human story that appeals both to scientists and non-scientists. Although the book relates to the important discovery of neutrinos, it is more intimately about Fred Reines than the technical details of neutrino physics. Narrated in a fashion to interest and excite the reader, the science presented here is accessible to a broad audience. Coursing through Reines’ life, his various challenges and encounters, the book reveals constants of his persona. Reines displayed a sustained consistency as a respected leader, admired by students and colleagues as a fount of big ideas and ambition. A continuing source of inspiration and motivation to others, his most basic consistency was his passion for science. The quest for knowledge about the wondrous universe is a profoundly human endeavor. Fred Reines’ life and his unremitting scientific curiosity are emblematic of that truth.


Leonard Cole wrote Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino in admiration and inspiration from his cousin and well-known physicist Fred Reines. Reines and associate, Clyde Cowen, took on the task that was once thought impossible in the world of physics: proving the existence of “the ghost” or the neutrino. The author takes first-hand stories and research to tell their story and the impact it had on him and his career. The book includes tales of Reines’ life from his early years to becoming an important member of the Manhattan Project.

When Reines and Cowen first started out on this adventure, they ran into a variety of logistical issues. It ranged from the lack of finances to reactions to the study itself. They could not convince people a nuclear explosion was worth the results. The scientists were resilient and persistent in ensuring their tests were done safely and efficiently. When Reines got the chance to work on the Manhattan Project, he worked with well-known scientists who influenced him in his own studies.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you are passionate about something, no matter how impossible it may seem to others, persevere. Put in the work, be resilient, and you can be successful.
  2. A big part of being successful is being a team. Reines had a teammate and friend in Cowen. With his help and advice, they could do the “impossible”. Have a support system. Do not do it on your own if you do not have to because there is always strength in numbers.
  3. Always be willing to learn from others. Even if that person is younger or less experienced, there is always something to learn from another person. Reines used his professional connections to better himself and his work because he was willing to learn from other people.

Final Thoughts

The author did a phenomenal job of telling Reines’ story. His book expresses how inspired he was by his cousin and his work. Chasing the Ghost: Nobelist Fred Reines and the Neutrino is professionally written, and the author used Reines’ experiences, both personal and professional, to talk about his successful career and life. He tells about teamwork, resilience, and willingness to learn as important attributes to being successful.


This review is provided by Sydney Balmer who is on active duty in the Navy until July and on a Skillbridge Internship with DODReads. She hopes to join the FBI after completing her bachelor’s degree. Her favorite pastimes are reading, hiking, visiting Disney World, and gaming. She can be reached at: /https://www.linkedin.com/in/sydney-balmer-116737167/

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