1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Home experiments I can try?

  1. Apr 3, 2012 #1
    I'm highly interested in the studies of particle physics as well as quantum mechanics. Are there any experiments I can try at home to demonstrate some of the more fundamental ideas related to these areas? Thank you for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2012 #2
    Yeah; well; just grab that smoke detector off your kitchen wall, rip it open, and watch the wonder of 37,000 alpha particles per second shoot off the Americium 241 sample contained therein. :smile: Don't worry, they are low energy alphas. Oh, yeah, watch out for the gammas also... :smile:
    Read here...

    "Driver carries no money; He's married."
  4. Apr 3, 2012 #3
    That's interesting indeed.

    I'm not sure how I could make an experiment out of this, but I'll research around. Thank you!
  5. Apr 4, 2012 #4
    To actually see these alpha particles from smoke detectors, and also cosmic ray particles, you can build a home-made cloud chamber for ~$20. Google around for "diy cloud chamber" and the like, there are several good sets of instructions on the web.
  6. Apr 10, 2012 #5
    Make an electroscope – look up diy electroscope.

    Watch it discharge in the presence of ionizing radiation. This was the first type of radiation detector. You can measure the range of alpha radiation with it. You could try putting various absorbers between the electroscope and a beta source – if you can find one SAFELY

    For a quantum experiment – put a clean piece of zinc or zinc plated metal on the electroscope, charge it negatively (experiment with rubbing different types of plastic). Shine ordinary light on it and nothing happens – let sunlight fall on the zinc and the electroscope discharges at once but it it is positively charged this does not happen – you have just demonstrated the photoelectric effect.


  7. Apr 10, 2012 #6
    This is more of a spectrum experiment, but most digital cameras "see" into the infrared.
    So you can see the IR led of a TV remote in your digital camera view screen.
  8. Apr 10, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The only home-friendly quantum physics experiments you can do are with light polarization. It's nothing terribly exciting, but keeping in mind that light polarization corresponds to photon spin, you can do some quantum measurement experiments. Quantum Zeno, for example, works well enough with polarizers.

    If you have access to some basic lab equipment, you can also do the photoelectric effect experiment. It's not terribly complex and doesn't require anything dangerous.

    As far as particle physics, outside of playing with fire alarm's source and detector (flourescent paint, photo paper, Geiger counter...) everything even slightly more serious involves a serious radiation source, photomultiplier, and an entire cabinet of amplifiers, counters, and comparators. Basically, the kind of stuff you aren't going to get your hands on outside of a university.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook