What are the funny images with the spirals?

The photographs are from bubble chambers, a type of particle physics detector invented in 1952 by Donald Glaser. Charged, subatomic particles passing through a tank of superheated liquid create the tracks. The passage of particles ionizes the liquid (knocks some electrons off the atoms) and causes it to boil. The bubbles are allowed to grow for about one millisecond, then a photograph is taken of the chamber. To reset the chamber and get rid of the bubbles, the liquid is compressed (the higher the pressure, the higher the boiling point -- this is why food cooks faster in a pressure cooker). Particle physicists discovered a number of subatomic particles with these detectors. Now, however, we make use of detectors over a million times faster -- and far more complicated.

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Rare Decays of the B Meson:
Particle Physics and the Question of Matter vs. Antimatter

A modern particle detector: BaBar

A modern particle detector: BaBar

Since the dawn of time, people have looked up at the stars and wondered: "How did we get here?" In order to answer that question, scientists must look backwards in time to the birth of the universe itself. While cosmologists turn their eyes to the stars, particle physicists can turn back the clock from right here on earth. In huge accelerators, we collide particles at high energies; the higher the energy of the collision, the further back in time we can go.

The Big Bang theory states that the universe was formed from pure energy. Experimental physics has shown that a symmetry in the laws of nature causes energy to form matter and antimatter in equal proportions. This is a direct result of conservation laws, which require the amount of energy, matter, and charge in the universe to remain constant. From everyday experience, however, we know that the world around us is made out of matter. Were this not the case, we could accidentally touch something made out of antimatter; our hand and the object could then annihilate, returning to a form of pure energy. Clearly this does not occur. As a result, we know that something must have happened in those first few nanoseconds after the Big Bang. The universe broke the matter-antimatter symmetry. The question remains as to how.

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