Starts With A Bang

How To Prove Einstein’s Relativity For Less Than $100 (Synopsis)

Cosmic rays produced by high-energy astrophysics sources can reach Earth's surface. By detecting these fast-moving particles correctly, we can put Einstein's relativity to the test. Image credit: ASPERA collaboration / AStroParticle ERAnet.

“The experiments that we will do with the LHC [Large Hadron Collider] have been done billions of times by cosmic rays hitting the earth. … They’re being done continuously by cosmic rays hitting our astronomical bodies, like the moon, the sun, like Jupiter and so on and so forth. And the earth’s still here, the sun’s still here, the moon’s still here.” -John Ellis

Relativity, or the idea that space and time are not absolute, was one of the most revolutionary and counterintuitive scientific theories to come out of the 20th century. It was also one of the most disputed, with hundreds of scientists refusing to accept it. Yet with less than $100 and a single day’s worth of labor, there’s a way you can prove it to yourself: by building a cloud chamber.

A completed cloud chamber can be built in a day out of readily-available materials and for less than $100. You can use it to prove the validity of Einstein’s relativity, if you know what you’re doing! Image credit: Instructables user ExperiencingPhysics.

An old fishtank, some 100% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, a metal base with dry ice beneath it and only a few other steps (see the full article for instructions) will allow you to construct a detector capable of seeing unstable cosmic particles. Yet these particles — and you’ll see about 1-per-second — would never reach Earth’s surface if it weren’t for relativity!

While cosmic ray showers are common from high-energy particles, it’s mostly the muons which make it down to Earth’s surface, where they are detectable with the right setup. Image credit: Alberto Izquierdo; courtesy of Francisco Barradas Solas.

Come learn how you can validate Einstein’s first great revolution all for yourself, and silence the doubts in your mind. Nature really is this weird!