A photo caught my eye recently. Tucked away in an old issue of Nature Physics, its bold colors stood out from the surrounding text. It featured cobalt blue streaks and whorls against a bright yellow-orange backdrop and was described as "the curling tracks of subatomic particles". I immediately recognized it as something else though. It was from the soundtrack of my youth! It was the artwork for Is This It, an album by The Strokes.
Reading the article, I learned that this photo was rooted in a physicist's attempt to calculate the trajectories of high-energy particles. Dr. Donald Glaser determined that within a superheated liquid, "energetic particles passing through would cause a trail of vapour bubbles large enough to be captured photographically" (Wright 2013). According to the text, this particular image was created with the Big European Bubble Chamber, which contained over 35 cubic meters of liquid. Chambers such as these helped reveal new information on the masses and lifetimes of these particles; they were in great use until scientists found an electronic replacement (Wright 2013).
Learning more about this album cover added a bit more nuance to my understanding of the band and their music. It also made the photo appear more dynamic to me. The sleek lines were no longer still, but instead markers of particles whizzing by. I was glad to have stumbled upon this photo's history. It was such a surprising and pleasant collision of particle physics, art, and sound.
Wright, Alison. "Brilliant bubbles." Nature Physics Apr. 2013: 208. Print.