DIY: How to turn a fish tank into a particle detector in 5 steps

What can you make with a fish tank, alcohol and dry ice? A spooky punch bowl? A cryogenic chamber? A particle detector? That's right, you can build your own particle detector and study subatomic particles from the comfort of your living room. All you need is 20 minutes.

According to Popular Science: "The DIY version is an empty fish tank with a ceiling of alcohol-soaked felt and a floor of dry ice. The room-temperature alcohol at the top evaporates into the air and sinks toward the ice at the bottom. As it cools, it will condense on anything it can.

Cosmic rays are constantly crashing into Earth from space, and when they hit the atmosphere, they release a shower of particles. If one of these particles zips through the DIY cloud chamber, it will bump into molecules that make up the air and knock off some of their electrons. This leaves a trail of charged ions, and tiny droplets of airborne alcohol cling to them. The ghostly track that results marks an individual particle’s path through the chamber."

To learn more, read "How To Build Your Own Particle Detector" from Popular Science.


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