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July 21 2017

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July 20 2017

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Few Seconds Before Happiness ~1955
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We’re used to radiation being invisible. With a Geiger counter, it gets turned into audible clicks. What you see above, though, is radiation’s effects made visible in a cloud chamber. In the center hangs a chunk of radioactive uranium, spitting out alpha and beta particles. The chamber also has a reservoir of alcohol and a floor cooled to -40 degrees Celsius. This generates a supersaturated cloud of alcohol vapor. When the uranium spits out a particle, it zips through the vapor, colliding with atoms and ionizing them. Those now-charged ions serve as nuclei for the vapor, which condenses into droplets that reveal the path of the particle. The characteristics of the trails are distinct to the type of decay particle that created them. In fact, both the positron and muon were first discovered in cloud chambers! (Image credit: Cloudylabs, source)

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