Physicists from MIT designed a pocket-sized cosmic ray muon detector that costs just 0 to make using common electrical parts, and when turned on, lights up and counts each time a muon passes through. The design is published in the American Journal of Physics. | Amazing Articles
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Physicists from MIT designed a pocket-sized cosmic ray muon detector that costs just $100 to make using common electrical parts, and when turned on, lights up and counts each time a muon passes through. The design is published in the American Journal of Physics.

Physicists from MIT designed a pocket-sized cosmic ray muon detector that costs just $100 to make using common electrical parts, and when turned on, lights up and counts each time a muon passes through. The design is published in the American Journal of Physics.

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30 Comments


  1. the--larch

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Can someone smart tldr me on Muons and why I should track them at home?

    Reply

  2. Wootery

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Could it be used as a random number generator?

    Reply

  3. _AlreadyTaken_

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I’d like it if it could also record the energy so I could get a cosmic ray spectrum. I ran a photomultiplier tube in the basement of a building once and watched the cosmic rays penetrate 20 stories of concrete. The spectrum was flat as the particles were equally distributed. Then I placed a beta emitter next to it and could see the distinct peaked distribution of the beta particles from it. Interesting stuff.

    Reply

  4. JonTheBold

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Plot Twist: It’s a raspberry pi programmed with “showLight(rand() > 0.9f);”.

    Reply

  5. Brother0fSithis

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    To be fair, at Fermilab we have had these kind of muon detectors for years and I don’t think they were ever that expensive. Hell, two of my friends built one last summer for an undergraduate research project.

    The biggest difference I believe is the use of a silicon photomultiplier instead of the standard photomultiplier tube, which can be expensive.

    Reply

  6. mesaosi

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    “using common electrical parts” – requires a custom printed PCB, Silicon Photomultiplier and a plastic scintillator of which the most prolific supplier seems to be University physics departments.

    Reply

  7. ecafsub

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Looks like I have a new project to start and not finish and leave to collect dust with all my old projects.

    Reply

  8. phillysan

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Off-topic

    > PINGU (Precision IceCube Next Generation Upgrade)

    Amazing!

    Reply

  9. Ecologisto

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

  10. mvea

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Journal Reference:

    S. N. Axani, J. M. Conrad, C. Kirby.

    The desktop muon detector: A simple, physics-motivated machine- and electronics-shop project for university students.

    American Journal of Physics, 2017; 85 (12): 948

    DOI: 10.1119/1.5003806

    Link: http://aapt.scitation.org/doi/10.1119/1.5003806

    ABSTRACT

    > This paper describes the construction of a desktop muon detector, an undergraduate-level physics project that develops machine-shop and electronics-shop technical skills. The desktop muon detector is a self-contained apparatus that employs a plastic scintillator as the detection medium and a silicon photomultiplier for light collection. This detector can be battery powered and is used in conjunction with the provided software. The total cost per detector is approximately $100. We describe physics experiments we have performed, and then suggest several other interesting measurements that are possible, with one or more desktop muon detectors.

    Reply

  11. Phleau

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I’m Interested in building this just for my desk, as a neat thing.

    But can someone more ‘particle physics’ tell me if open-sourceing and sharing the results would be useful.

    Like if we could publish GPS coords with muon count you could kinda make a coarse planet wide (ambitious I know) but at least few state wide detector

    Reply

  12. GAndroid

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    So it’s a single SiPM. Really , is that what passes off as exciting science nowadays ? You can re muons with a desktop cloud chamber as well (some dry ice and alcohol required no electronics)

    Reply

  13. snowbyrd238

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Couldnt you create a small sphere of these and detect what direction the muons were coming from?

    Reply

  14. Orwellian1

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Is there a cheap device that can detect when neutrinos mutate and start behaving like microwaves?

    Reply

  15. mugaboo

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    /r/ineeeedit

    Seriously, would buy.

    Reply

  16. GaryQueenofScots

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Muons are unstable charged particles created by cosmic rays at the top of the atmosphere. A stationary muon decays in a very short time into other particles with a mean lifetime of 2 microseconds. In this time, a muon travelling at nearly the speed of light (186000 miles per second) would only travel about 1/3 of a mile, but instead they are observed at ground level. That’s because a muon moving that quickly exhibits time dilation: as seen by a stationary observer, the internal processes in the moving muon that lead to muon decay are slowed down, so the decay takes longer in the observers frame of reference.

    Time dilation happens because the speed of light is the same in different reference frames. Say you measure the speed of light on a rail car moving in the x direction at speed v. You have a flashbulb that emits a burst light that travels across the car in the y direction a distance L into a detector, taking a time T to do so. An observer on the railcar would find that L/T = c, the speed of light. But a stationary observer on the ground beside the car sees the photon travel in both the x and y directions. In her frame, the time required for detection is T’. The distance moved in the x direction is v T’. In the y direction the distance moved is still L. Pythagoras says that the total distance moved by the light pulse is S=sqrt[ (v T’)^2 + L^2]. But S/T’ = c, since the light moves at the same speed c in all frames. Since L= c T, we than have S/T’=c=sqrt[v^2 + c^2 T^2/T’^2]. Solve for T’ to get T’ = T/sqrt[1-v^2/c^2].

    TLDr: The light pulse moves farther in the stationary frame compared to the distance moved in the frame of the rail car. But the speed in both frames has to be the same. So the time it takes to move is longer in the stationary frame (speed = distance/time)

    Reply

  17. nim_opet

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    That’s pretty cool – not that I’m about to go around detecting muons right now, but any participatory science is good. Especially these days when large swaths of general population believe that “universities and education don’t contribute to society”, not to mention the fringe theories that cost real people’s lives.

    Reply

  18. substitutehorus

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    A few years ago there was a university already working on a muon detector *app* for the smartphone- all that’s needed is the camera of the phone.

    Reply

  19. Geralt0fRivia

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Can someone ELI5 please

    Reply

  20. Watch_me_serpentine

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    How would you know if it’s accurate?

    Reply

  21. HereticalSkeptic

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Great pickup line for nerds: “Damn but the Muons are really coming down today”

    Reply

  22. Grinzorr

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I’d totally build one, but I’d need to purchase a kit rather than find the parts piecemeal. Hopefully, something I could work through with my kid.

    Reply

  23. kontekisuto

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Where can i buy one ready made? I want to do muon imaging.

    Reply

  24. agentlemansguide

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    you’d think MIT would have a load balancer or something

    Reply

  25. Tex-Rob

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    So, I’m confused, what happened since I read an article about them detecting Muons somewhere out West in the US, in some ultra deep mine shaft, we are now able to detect them anywhere easily somehow? What changed?

    Reply

  26. Wavescape3

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Related to this, there is also an [app](https://crayfis.io/) that let’s you detect cosmic rays using the camera in your phone.

    Reply

  27. Beefsideiron

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I need to build this! Integrate it with my Hue Lights. One already changes colour when ISS passes overhead.

    Reply

  28. ParagonChill

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Mobile phone manufacturers should include a miniaturized version of this in their devices. Massively distributed planetary muon detection. If we are going to be tracked at all times might as well use some of that bandwidth for science experiments.

    Reply

  29. muntendo

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    $100 of electrical parts is expensive though..

    Reply

  30. Anonymous

    November 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

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