"Physicists design $100 handheld muon detector"



“A what detector?!”:

At any given moment, the Earth’s atmosphere is showered with high-energy cosmic rays that have been blasted from supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena far beyond the Solar System. When cosmic rays collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, they decay into muons — charged particles that are slightly heavier than an electron.

Muons last only fractions of a second, and during their fleeting lifespan they can be found through every layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, circulating in the air around us and raining onto the surface at a rate similar to a light drizzle. A small fraction of muons can even penetrate the Earth’s surface and travel several kilometers through rock and ice.

This is aimed at “K12” which doesn’t translate directly to the UK system, but is somewhere around the end of high school, start of college.

Now physicists working in MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science have designed a pocket-sized cosmic ray muon detector to track these ghostly particles. The detector can be made with common electrical parts, and when turned on, it lights up and counts each time a muon passes through. The relatively simple device costs just $100 to build, making it the most affordable muon detector available today.

I emailed this over to our Science department and CC’d the Computer Science teachers in since, even if subatomic particles aren’t taught at GCSE, this is a crazy cool project and could really get kids interested in the sciences if pitched right. Oh, and it could be used as the basis for a ‘true random number generator’ since - as I understand things - muons are unpredictable, at least at our current level of understanding, meaning we can teach children in Computer Science about random in programming and the differences between pseudo random (of which we use the random function in python) and true random.

Only response I got? From a senior science teacher: “How do you know what a Muon even is? Half of us haven’t even heard of one”.

To be fair though, the guy did say that it sounds like a really interesting project.


Particularly distressing the senior science teacher said that, given muons are covered in A-level chemistry


They’re part of the lepton family of sub atomic particles. A muon is basically a negatively charged particle like an electron but “heavier” (goes into quantum field theory which is fucking insanity).

It goes (in order of weight) Electron, muon and Tauon. A tauon is absolutely fucking massive, and rarely seen in nature (by which we mean cosmic rays and particle accelerators).

Fun note, all of these have “anti” particles, so there is a positively charged muon too.

The ATLAS detector in CERN can pick them up, and they’re usually detected “outside” the main chamber - they’re high energy and only the extremity detectors pick them up. They’re actually the easiest particles to discern due to their unique trajectory and energy pattern. See below the red ray perpendicular to the main reaction:



and you apply this to project management how? :stuck_out_tongue:


“do the thing”

“Why should I?”

“Because I can science, bitch.”

“Fair point”.