|Samuel L. the Jackson's Chameleon|
We also ran our cloud chamber experiment again yesterday, and finally, some results! With an old slide projector to provide a powerful light source and a modified bicycle pump to provide a vacuum, we managed to produce a thick cloud almost as soon as we had the setup complete. Now, the experiment was not 100% successful because of one fact: we were unable to catch a particle trail on camera. The reason for this is because our radiation source seems to be a dud. We did see several streaks that we believe to be cosmic ray tracks (high-speed particles from outer space that shower the earth), but nary a track did we see coming from our americium. This happening left us fairly puzzled, as americium is supposed to put out copious amounts of alpha particles (helium nuclei). Scratching the surface of the americium to remove any possible coating had no effect, so we were left scratching our heads and had to conclude that our radiation source was either a fraud, or else that we really don't know what to look for. I'd like to get ahold of a Geiger-counter and independently verify its radioactivity, but in the meantime we'll see if we can borrow a radioactive sample from the school (one of the professors has a lump of uranium he offered to lend us).
Still, seeing cosmic ray tracks (if that is indeed what they were) is pretty cool. These are high-speed (~99% of the speed of light) protons and electrons that travel through space, and constantly shower down on the earth. We saw one every couple of minutes, on average.
I should log off and get some sleep soon, but I thought I'd mention the interesting coincidences surrounding our house at the moment. I've already related my computer troubles, but I neglected to mention that Jonathan's laptop suddenly refused to turn on about a day after mine started having trouble, and the fact that John's laptop's power cord actually caught fire two days ago, leaving him without a computer as well. Thankfully, I can still use my new computer well enough if it manages to avoid locking up while starting up, and I have my old computer as well, so between me and Josh we've been able to provide internet access for them so far. So, coincidence? Or some electro-magnetic anomaly plaguing our house? As the saying goes, once is chance, twice is coincidence, but three times...three times makes you wonder...