Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Particles traveling in curved lines?

  1. Oct 27, 2011 #1
    My chem/physics teacher said that electrons don't travel in a straight direction, he said something about them traveling in random or spiral directions. So I was wondering ofcourse all the photos from the LHC show spirals, so that must be the traces of particles created by the collision. Do all particles travel like this? or just electrons, do they travel in a random direction? and is there an answer to why they travel like this? but not straight.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2011 #2
    Electrons spiral because of magnetic fields, they manipulate E&M fields in particle accelerators to accelerate them and keep them 'trapped' so to speak.

    Don't know much about the other particles though.
  4. Nov 11, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Any charge (elecgtron, proton, ion) moving through a magnetic field will experience a force that is at right angles to its motion and in a direction that depends on the magnetic field vector. This will produce a spiral motion (or circular if the charge is moving at right angles to the field). I would not have called it "random" motion because it is determined by the conditions but, as they may not be known accurately then the motion may be hard to predict. They spiral left or right, depending on the sign of the charge and the radius of the spiral depends on their mass and strength of field.

    Ultra fast particles from outer space tend to spiral around the Earth's magnetic field lines. This helps to protect us from their effects because they follow much longer paths than if they were coming in 'direct' as they collide with many more air molecules and lose most of their energy before they get to the ground. (Useful)

    Neutral particles are not affected by electromagnetic fields and tend to just plough on until they actually hit something. Neutrons go straight through atoms, even, unless they find the nucleus - which is why they are so dangerous; you need a lot of screening to be safe from them.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook