The Cloud Chamber – Making elementary particles come alive.

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 at 18:37

The cloud chamber is an incredibly simple solution to a very difficult problem. Since electrons and photons exist in abstract numbers and sizes it is impossible to see their actual physical shape. This type of particle-detection is one of the main tools that scientists use in their search for new particles and how they are constructed and related to each other.

What we are seeing in this video is the natural background radiation, and radioactive atoms spitting out alpha/beta particles. Inside the chamber there is supersaturated gas. And when the particles brush against the gas-molecules it ionizes them so that a strip of condensation forms along the particles trajectory. Like when you see vapor trails from airplanes in the sky.

The cloud chamber has been instrumental in the search for the origin of the Universe, and the particles that everything it is made of. To understand the very large, such as the Big Bang and the formation of solar systems and galaxies, scientists look for clues in the realm of the very small. The quantum world of elementary particles such as Photons and Electrons. To unravel the mysteries of the large, science first has to uncover the properties of the very small.

The most important use of the Cloud Chamber is together with particle accelerators, where atoms are sped up to near the speed of light, just to be smashed into smaller bits of matter. This is how physicists search for new clues about how matter works, and hence new knowledge about how the Universe works at large. And when these collisions occur, the Cloud Chamber has helped us to see how the new particles actually behave, so they can be distinguished from one another.

The biggest such endeavor to date, is the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, on the border between France and Switzerland. It is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. It smashes led-ions together at almost the speed of light, a feat that requires unprecedented accuracy. Scientists working at LHC compares it to shooting two pin-needles at each other from 10 km apart, and have them meet head on. It`s circumference is 26,7 km, it sucks up 120 mw of power, and has a total cost of $ 9 billion.

  1. […] The Cloud Chamber – Making elementary particles come alive. ( […]

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