From Symmetry: “The $100 muon detector”


Symmetry Mag


By Laura Dattaro

Spencer Axani

A doctoral student and his adviser designed a tabletop particle detector they hope to make accessible to budding young engineering physicists.

When Spencer Axani was an undergraduate physics student, his background in engineering led him to a creative pipe dream: a pocket-sized device that could count short-lived particles called muons all day.

Muons, heavier versions of electrons, are around us all the time, a byproduct of the cosmic rays that shoot out from supernovae and other high-energy events in space. When particles from those rays hit Earth’s atmosphere, they often decay into muons.

Muons are abundant on the surface of the Earth, but in Axani’s University of Alberta underground office, shielded by the floors above, they might be few and far between. A pocket detector would be the perfect gadget for measuring the difference.

Now a doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

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