In 1965 the Heavy Liquid Bubble Chamber at the Rutherford Laboratory, near Didcot in Oxfordshire, commenced operation after five years of construction. The chamber, 1.4m long and 50cm square, was filled with propane and surrounded by a giant electromagnet; the whole assembly weighed some 200 tons. It was meant to be the jewel in the crown of British particle physics and was a good example of the move from individual university laboratories to central “Big Science” institutions.
But a problem soon became evident; some of the photographs seemed rather washed out. In bubble chamber photographs the background is black, with any particle tracks standing out as white, illuminated by powerful lights at the top and bottom of the chamber. These washed-out photographs looked as though they had been taken during a lightning strike. Which, in a way, they had. Continue reading