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Artwork Inspired by Bubble Chambers

New York artist Roshan Houshmand found the photos of particle events recorded in bubble chambers, like those used at BNL's Alternating Gradient Synchrotron in the 1960s and 70s, to be so compellingly beautiful that they became the basis for an entire series of paintings.

spiral tracks

Particle tracks recorded in BNL's 80-inch bubble chamber. When liquid in the chamber is kept at extremely cold temperatures, accelerator-produced charged particles flying through it leave a visible trail of bubbles along their path.

SpiralSays Houshamand, "the process of drawing and painting these 'perfect' spirals and swirls from the photographs was different than anything I had ever pursued in my artwork. I loved the sophisticated, simple playfulness of lines depicting charges, energies, speeds, mass and so much more.  I also love that these are paintings, drawings which depict a very 3-D sculptural space.  They are paintings of very specific energies; paintings of collision-created trails called 'events'.  The creative process for this series is one of simultaneous control and expansion where each canvas searches for its own form and movement. There is something so pure and primal and universal about the movement of the trails and swirls and dancing lines against the black, which exist for less than a breath of time before they disappear."

Retro and Coil

"Their dignity and great sense of chaotic balance appeals to me as I proceed to prime all my canvases in the densest black I can find; “Cold Black” which is actually a very dark blue.  It is the black of the blackboard and the black of the universe. Once the paint is dry, armed with a piece of chalk and photographs of tracks from  Brookhaven National Laboratory as a reference point, I begin my search for the energy and dance of the colliding, spiraling lines until my aesthetic vision and the photographed image are in dialogue; neither too fast nor too slow, until the point is made."

Mediation and Sublime Chaos

"The process repeats as layers of black against layers of white perfect each other until there is a complete unity of surface between the black and the white painted forms.  Each painting tells a different story."

In the Loop

Did you know?

BNL's 80-inch bubble chamber was filled with 240 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen, surrounded by a 31-ton magnet. The magnet was used to create a field which would deflect various charged particles along different paths, providing information on their momentum, mass, and other key details.

80-inch chamber schematic
  80-inch bubble chamber


The most famous discovery made at the 80-inch bubble chamber was by a team of researchers led by future BNL director Nicholas Samios. In 1964, this team established the existence of the omega-minus particle, which was previously only theorized to exist. The bubble chamber event diagramed below confirmed its existence.

Omega Minus

One drawback of bubble chamber technology was that a staff of trained analysts had to examine thousands of chamber photographs manually, searching for that one special event that researchers were looking for--by looking at up to 250,000 pictures per month.

Film Scanning