46_chambers - Lesson 46: Cloud & Bubble Chambers...

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Imagine you're on a really stupid game show where they put a whole bunch of ping pong balls on the floor, turn off the lights, and then send you in to count them. How would you do it? I'm thinking that your only chance is to get down on your hands and knees and try to touch them around you. One of the problems is that in the very act of counting them (by reaching out), you change them by pushing them around, maybe even missing some of them. This is kind of the same problem that subatomic physicists have. They have to reach around “in the dark” to measure something that they can't see. The amazing part is that methods have been developed to do this, and actually do it accurately. This is the beginning of our journey into the modern subatomic realm of physics. Cloud Chambers In 1894 the Scottish physicist Charles Wilson was interested in the odd shadows that can sometimes be formed on cloud tops by mountain climbers (called Brocken Spectre ). To be able to study this further, he came up with a way to build a device called a cloud chamber that would allow him to make his own mini-clouds inside a glass chamber. To be able to do this he made his device so that he could keep the air inside supersaturated with water. Air can usually only hold a certain amount of vapour. Supersaturated means the air was holding more vapour than it would normally be able to at that pressure and temperature. It is in a very delicate state that can easily be disturbed to cause condensation of the vapour into liquid droplets. He quickly realized that as charged particles passed
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2011 for the course PHYSICS 235 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at Rutgers.

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46_chambers - Lesson 46: Cloud & Bubble Chambers...

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