Contributions to Aviation
Later in his career, -Alvarez served the Civilian and Military Aviation Advisory Committees that included a Federal Aviation Administration task group on future air navigation, along with air traffic control systems and many other things. He was also a member of the presidentâ€™s science advisory committee of the military aircraft panel and another committee that studied ways in which the scientific community could help improve the capabilities of the United States in fighting a non-nuclear war. He was the first civilian to fly a low approach. Along with this, he also co-piloted many military aircraft, including a B-29 Superfortress and Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. During the World War II in 1943, Alvarez played a major role in detecting nuclear weapons. He also devised methods to measure how powerful a nuclear explosion could be. Additionally, he played a role in developing atomic bombs.
The Hydrogen Bubble Chamber
After WWII, Alvarez moved back to Berkeley and started working as a professor. He spent a lot of time working with the cyclotron, which is a particle accelerator. It is also known as an atom smasher. Helium-3 was predicted to be unstable, but he proved otherwise through his work.
Earlier, only two fundamental or basic particles of the atom were known: the proton and the electron. By 1932, the horizons of physics widened with the discovery of two new particles: the neutron and the positron. The neutron was discovered by James Chadwick. The positron was discovered by Carl Anderson.
Subatomic particles were seen to leave vapor trails in the device cloud chamber. Inspired by the work of Donald Glaser, who won a Nobel Prize in 1960 with his invention, the bubble chamber, Alvarez had an idea to do something tricky. A bubble chamber was a new and improved way of tracking subatomic particles. Glaser used a bubble chamber that was filled with liquid ether, but Alvarez decided to use a bubble chamber filled with liquid hydrogen instead. Alvarez thought the liquid hydrogen would boil whenever a high energy particle passed through it. Thus, it would give rise to a trail. This trail would allow the properties of the particles to be estimated. By using this, he discovered a variety of new particles and resonance states. For this, Alvarez was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1968.
Alvarez took on a very unusual project to search for unknown chambers in the Egyptian pyramids by using naturally occurring cosmic rays. He used radiations from space to study the pyramids and search for chambers. He had a special plan. He placed spark chambers, standard equipment in the high energy particle physics of this time, underneath the Chaperonâ€™s second pyramid in a known chamber. This pyramid of Chaperon is the second largest of the pyramids of Giza. Alvarez measured the counting rate of cosmic rays in different directions using a detector that would reveal the existence of any void in the overlaying rock structure. He studied about one-fifth of the volume of this pyramid, but he was unable to find any new chambers.