UIC QuarkNet

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Introduction

QuarkNet UIC

A central goal of the UIC QuarkNet program is to provide a table top High Energy Physics particle detector for each participating high school teacher, for use in their high school classroom. The apparatus is self-contained, portable, capable of detecting charged, high energy particles, and sending that data to a standard PC for further analysis. SInce 2000, each QuarkNet high school group has assembled a detector, based scintillating plastic during summer workshops. They have used their own detectors to detect cosmic rays from exploding stars.

You may want to ask a question or two. What can we see with this detector that is not visible by eye? Why bother? We can observe elementary particles called muons that are created when cosmic rays, consisting of mostly protons, collide with the upper atmosphere. The cosmic rays originate outside of the solar system, probably from exploding stars, and they are so energetic that they are traveling very near the speed of light. The protons hit the atmosphere and create many new particles in a narrow cone, called a particle shower. Note, this particle creation is an example of Einsteinís equation equating energy and mass E = Mc2. Some of these produced particles are unstable and decay quickly to muons. The muons are much like heavy electrons, but they donít interact much with the atmosphere and can reach the surface of the Earth, where we detect them. The other particles in the shower interact more strongly with the atmosphere and stop in the upper atmosphere. QuarkNet UIC QuarkNet UIC

By measuring these muons, we can investigate three separate fields:

  1. We can explore fundamental, high energy physics, by studying the properties of the produced muons, which are some of the fundamental building blocks of the Universe.
  2. We can also explore astronomy by using the muons to infer the spatial and energy distributions of the parent cosmic rays.
  3. Nature has kindly given us this high energy beam of particles that we can use. We can even exploit the muons to test Einsteinís Theory of Special Relativity or more.
QuarkNet UIC