Experiments You Can Do at Home - But Probably Shouldn't

Chapter 6
Natural Wonders » Seeing the Sub Atomic

Seeing the Sub Atomic

Build a cloud chamber and watch the subatomic radioactive particles all around you. Sometimes, in an alcoholic fog, I can see individual subatomic particles zipping by in front of my eyes. It takes pretty strong stuff to make this happen-pure 200-proof grain alcohol, denatured alcohol from the hardware store, or 100 percent isopropyl. Rum and vodka are too watered-down.

Before someone stages an intervention, I should mention that the alcohol is not in me, it's in a sealed case called a cloud chamber, which allows you to see, in plain sight, products of radioactive decay-the paths of zooming subatomic particles-in a dense haze of alcohol.

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