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Alvarez, Luis (Walter)

physics radar proton led

[al vah rez] (1911–88) US physicist: developed the bubble-chamber technique in particle physics.

Alvarez was a student under , and then joined at the University of California at Berkeley in 1936. He remained there, becoming professor of physics in 1945.

Alvarez was an unusually prolific and diverse physicist. He discovered the phenomenon of orbital electron capture, whereby an atomic nucleus ‘captures’ an orbiting electron, resulting in a nuclide with a lower proton number. In 1939, together with he made the first measurement of the magnetic moment of a neutron. During the Second World War he worked on radar, developing such devices as microwave navigation beacons and radar landing approach systems for aircraft, and also worked on the American atomic bomb project. In 1947 he built the first proton linear accelerator, and later developed the bubble-chamber technique for detecting charged subatomic particles, which in turn led to a great increase in the number of known particles. For this he received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1968.

He was ingenious in the application of physics to a variety of problems. He used the X-ray component of natural cosmic radiation to show that Chephren’s pyramid in Egypt had no undiscovered chambers within it; and he used physics applied to the Kennedy assassination evidence to confirm that only one killer was involved. With his son Walter (1940– ), a geologist, he studied the problem of the catastrophe of 65 000 000 years ago which killed the dinosaurs and other fossil species; they concluded from tracer analysis that a probable cause was Earth’s impact with an asteroid or comet, resulting in huge fires and/or screening of the Sun by dust. His interest in optical devices led him to found two companies; one to make variable focus spectacle lenses, devised by him to replace his bifocals; the other to make an optical stabilizer, which he invented to avoid shake in his cine camera and in binoculars. He was an engaging and popular personality.

Alvin,Danny(originallyViniello,DanielAlvin) [next] [back] Alva,Luigi(real name,Luis Ernesto Alva Talledo)

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