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Glaser, Donald Arthur

bubble chamber particles tracks

[glay zer] (1926– ) US physicist: invented the bubble chamber for observing elementary particles.

Graduating in 1946 from the Case Institute of Technology in his home town of Cleveland, OH, Glaser then did cosmic ray research at California Institute of Technology for his doctorate (1950). For 10 years he worked at the University of Michigan and from 1959 at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1964 he turned to molecular biology.

By the early 1950s the cloud chamber was failing to detect the fastest high-energy particles available. Glaser realized that particles passing through a superheated liquid will leave tracks of small gas bubbles nucleated along the trajectory. In 1952 he produced a prototype bubble chamber a few centimetres across, filled with diethyl ether. The tracks were observed and recorded with a high-speed camera. Bubble chambers up to several meters across and filled with liquid hydrogen were developed by and used in many of the major discoveries of the 1960s and 1970s in particle physics. Glaser received the 1960 Nobel Prize for physics. He had calculated which liquids would be suitable for use in a bubble chamber, but as he ‘wanted to be sure not to omit simple experimental possibilities’ he also tried beer, ginger beer and soda water. None worked; water is unsuitable because it has a high surface tension and a high critical pressure.

Glashow, Sheldon Lee [next] [back] Givens, Robin (1964–)

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