John Gribbin

Half-Life Stories

Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

By

Princeton University Press 490pp £24.95 order from our bookshop

I approached this book with low expectations. Ho-hum, I thought, a book about radiation written by a professor of radiation medicine. Probably some dull memoir by a retired old boy. How wrong I was. Strange Glow is a cracking good read, filled with fascinating stories about the people behind the science and covering vastly more of that science than I anticipated, in an accessible style.

The first delight is that Timothy Jorgensen deals with radiation in all its forms, starting with light and putting other kinds of electromagnetic radiation (such as X-rays) in context, as well as explaining the nature of particulate forms of radiation, such as the particle beams used to treat cancers. He starts with, as he puts it, ‘the basics’, a historical overview from Newton to nuclear fusion via X-rays and radium. Just occasionally the American view of the world seems slightly out of tune with my version of reality – as in ‘the British love their plum pudding’ – but this is a small price to pay for a friendly, jargon-free narrative.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,