Here is How You Can Reveal Subatomic Particles at Home

Here is How You Can Reveal Subatomic Particles at Home

Particle physics is difficult. It takes years of study in order to truly grasp it. Moreover, there is still a lot that even the most experienced experts don’t understand (a whole lot, in fact). And the problem is made even worse because of the array of jargon that is sometimes used.
But if you can’t fully grasp it, at least you can see it in action.

Watch: How to See Subatomic Particles

Experiment Instructions:
Materials: Jar & lid, sponge, 91% rubbing alcohol (or greater % purity; not 70%), permanent black marker, flashlight, and dry ice.
Step 1: Stuff the sponge in the bottom of the jar so it doesn’t fall down when the jar is turned upside-down.
Step 2: Pour a bit of alcohol on the sponge, but not too much that it will drip or fall when turned upside-down.
Step 3: Color as much of the inside of the lid black as you can. This is so there is contrast with the droplets, which will appear white as they reflect the flashlight’s light. Thin black paper attached to the lid may also work, but it must be thin enough so the cold lid still cools down the bottom of the jar.
Step 4: Put the lid on the jar.
Step 5: Put on well-insulated gloves and pour out a pile of dry ice.
Step 6: Place the jar upside-down on the dry ice. You may want to surround the edge of the lid with dry ice, so it cools down faster.
Step 7: Shine your flashlight over the lid (try various angles to get best visibility of droplets).
Step 8: Turn off all other lights.
Step 9: Look for lines of droplets. You should be able to see droplets in the vapor falling down to the lid like snow, but a few times a minute (or more frequently) you will see a line of droplets appear and fall down to the lid. When you see a line, it was from a subatomic particle shooting through your jar!

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