[Please not this book was originally published with the title The Magicians]

What does it feel like to know something no one has known before? Or to predict something no one suspected ~ then find it?

Breakthrough tells spectacular stories of scientific discovery, from gravitational waves to antimatter, from the Higgs boson to black holes.

It is not easy to convey, unless one has experienced it, the dramatic feeling of sudden enlightenment that floods the mind when the right idea clicks into place. One could kick oneself for not having the idea earlier, it now seems so obvious.
Francis Crick, discoverer of DNA.

* An astronomer with a quill pen at a desk in Paris calculates the location of a previously unsuspected planet and, weeks later, Neptune swims into view in a telescope in Berlin.

* A soldier dying of an agonising skin disease in a World War I field hospital predicts the existence of a nightmare astronomical object and, 55 years later it is discovered by a man who celebrates by buying his children Knickerbocker Glories in a Hastings beachfront café.

* A physicist recovering from a hellish camping trip in the wettest location in the Scottish Highlands predicts the existence of an unsuspected subatomic particle and, half a century later, at a cost of 5 billion euros, the Higgs boson appears at the Large Hadron Collider.


  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication date: February 20, 2020
  • ISBN: 978-0571346387
  • One of the best-written books about physics I have ever come across. Highly enlightening.

    Popular Science

  • Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish… Marcus Chown has done it again.

    BBC Sky at Night Magazine

  • The real pleasure of Chown’s book is to see how recondite physics can be fascinating, life-enhancing entertainment. It’s magic.

    Prospect Magazine

  • There is something seductive about well-written popular science. Chown’s highly entertaining and accessible book leads us through a seemingly magical realm in which ferociously clever and persistent boffins predict the existence of unbelievable things.

    The Irish Times

  • I read The Magicians with great enjoyment and appreciation. I loved the insight, the humour, and how peopled the book is with intense, passionate personalities, each determined in his quest, mocked for his conviction – also his prediction – until later another equally intense boffin drops by and proves him true. They should all have been christened Cassandra. A thoroughly informative and entertaining read.

    Anna Burns, Winner of Man Booker Prize for “Milkman”

  • A graceful read. Chown does have a good knack for explaining science and you might find this book useful for all ages as you not only get a bit of history of the scientists but their theories as well. Read and learn.


  • An excellent popular science book. Not actually about magicians; about how brilliant minds predict things from theory, which are then seen years later. Recommended.

    Dara Ó Briain