Nobel Dreams. Gary Taubes. Random House, New York, 1986. 261 pp. $19.95.

The days of the solitary scientist sounding out nature with homemade equipment are gone. This is nowhere more true than in particle physics, where the search for smaller and smaller units of matter has progressed from van Leeuwenhoek's microscope to Rutherford's alpha-particle beams to today's city-sized particle accelerators, each costing many hundreds of millions of dollars and gobbling up the resources and reputations of whole institutions.

In the high-stakes arena of particle physics, the gentlemanly pursuit of knowledge has been transformed into major league hardball. The individual has been replaced by the team. Friendly rivalry has given way to ruthless competition. Academic caution has been trampled by hard-sell propaganda, modesty by "intellectual exhibitionism." Speed has been substituted for accuracy. Honesty has been devoured by ambition. The team leader is warlord.

Science writer Gary Taubes captures these seedy...

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