Physics Spotlight  
Photo of easy-to-build desktop muon detector. Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Frankiewicz Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Frankiewicz

An easy-to-build desktop muon detector

The design of a simple, inexpensive cosmic-ray-muon detector has led to an international outreach program.

Spencer N. Axani | Physics Today
June 14, 2017

This article was published in the Research & Technology section of Physics Today, and is reproduced with the permission of the American Institute of Physics. Spencer N. Axani is a graduate student at MIT working with Janet Conrad. He earned an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Alberta.

On airplanes I am often asked about the blinking metallic device connected to my laptop’s USB port. To assuage any suspicions, I explain that I’m a third-year physics graduate student at MIT and that the little device is actually a cosmic-ray-muon detector.

Over the past few years that detector has evolved from an instrument for a multimillion-dollar experiment to a device that high school and college physics students can construct themselves. The goal of a new program called CosmicWatch is to encourage students to build the detectors, which weigh in at less than 100 g and cost less than $100, and explore the effects of the particles that are constantly raining down on Earth’s surface.
Read full article >>

Physics in the News icon