Thursday, April 22, 2010

PBS Nova's The Ghost Particle and The Particle Adventure

I picked this DVD of The Ghost Particle off the library shelf because it deals with neutrinos, neutrally-charged particles which were originally believed to be massless energy, but which are now believed to be the basis for all mass in our universe. Although a little dated (it's from 2004) it was short and interesting. There is a PBS Nova companion website, but I don't think it adds much to the video itself. The classroom activities involve guessing what's in a box -- good perhaps on a conceptual level, but not really "physics."

So we are working on putting together a lab in which we build a small cloud chamber to detect radiation from cosmic rays and/or slightly radioactive material (such as thorium mantles from Coleman lanterns). However, we still need a good background on subatomic particles. For that, I think I will have the kids look over a website called The Particle Adventure.

It gives information in little bite-sized portions, along with trivia questions such as:
For how many years have physicists known that there were more than just protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons? Answer: 60 years! In the 1930's physicists found muons, but hundreds more were found with high energy accelerators in the 1960's and 1970's.
 (Follow-up question:  How many components of matter other than protons, neutrons, and electrons did you learn about in high school physics? My answer: None!)
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  1. I built a chamber off of the Holly Batechlor design. and was able to produce some nice traces.

  2. Many things are not yet subject to science, but we can already look beyond the screen of the riddle. This book is proof of it. I believe that answers to questions in the spirit of components of matter other than protons, neutrons, and electrons can be formulated more by students of profile specialties and not by students of the high school. Although an in-depth study of this issue takes place to be, as well as aso and other basics of marketing for example.