The Bubble Chamber – a place for thinking about science and society

Bubble chamber at Fermilab
Bubble chamber at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory ©Bruce Marlin

In the 1950s and 60s, bubble chambers were cutting-edge scientific apparatuses for physical researchers in North America.  One of the first large-scale devices created to observe the interaction of charged particles, bubble chambers were novel and highly-intricate feats of engineering.  Their realization required hundreds of different kinds of specialists to apply their knowledge in new, integrated ways.  The various specialized bits of knowledge possessed by these specialists, along with their attendant crafts and technologies, all took on new applications and orientations in their common endeavour to construct bubble chambers, a task ultimately aimed at providing an experimental basis for modern particle physics.

Because bubble chambers were constructed by the mutually reinforcing intellectual collaboration of a variety of different specialists, bubble chambers serve as a nice metaphor for what we hope to achieve with this blog.  The Bubble Chamber is run by a group of historians and philosophers of science whose interests and specializations vary widely, giving us all an opportunity to learn from each other and integrate our knowledge in new and fruitful ways.  Our main hope for the blog, however, is that it will find readers from outside our academic disciplines.  The idea is that we, as historians and philosophers of science, can create new applications for our specialized knowledge by bringing it to bear on social, political, and policy issues of general interest in ways that engage with a variety of people, from the general public to business people to working scientists.  We hope to find such applications because we believe our society as a whole could do with a better, more nuanced understanding of science and its place in our modern world.  To develop such an understanding, we all need to find new, integrated ways of bringing our specialized knowledge and experience together.  This blog will be a forum for such intellectual cross-pollination and collaboration, where a wide variety of people can be exposed to the socially relevant work of historians and philosophers of science, and vice versa.…