Spontaneous Ionization to Subatomic Physics: Some Vignettes from Cosmic Ray History

View Spontaneous Ionization to Subatomic Physics: Some Vignettes from Cosmic Ray History

Presenter: James Cronin

Published: July 2014

Age: 18-22 and upwards

Views: 746 views

Tags: ionisation; ion; ionise; cosmic; ray; ballon

Type: Lectures

Source/institution: Lindau-Nobel


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In 1879 Crookes discovered that air seemed to ionize spontaneously.  With the discovery in 1896 of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel it appeared that the mystery was solved.  However a number of physicists sought a quantitative agreement between the “spontaneous ionization” and the radioactivity in the earth.  The persistence of these physicists led to the discovery of another source of radiation, which appeared to come from the heavens.  The nature of this “cosmic radiation” involved phenomena that were completely unknown.  Coming to an understanding of the nature of this cosmic radiation took about 40 years between 1912 and 1953.  This history involves extraordinary scientists and the invention of dramatic new detection techniques.  The story finishes with a remarkable conference organized by Patrick Blackett and Louis Leprince-Ringuet 1953 in the Pyrenees town of Bagnères de Bigorre.