How To Prove Einstein’s Relativity For Less Than $100
“But the fact that you can see cosmic ray muons at all is enough to prove that relativity is real. Think about where these muons are created: high in the upper atmosphere, about 30-to-100 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Think about how long a muon lives: about 2.2 microseconds on average. And think about the speed limit of the Universe: the speed of light, or about 300,000 kilometers per second. If you have something moving at the speed of light that only lives 2.2 microseconds, it should make it only 0.66 kilometers before decaying away. With that mean lifetime, less than 1-in-10^50 muons should reach the surface. But in reality, almost all of them make it down.”
Relativity, or the idea that space and time are not absolute, was one of the most revolutionary and counterintuitive scientific theories to come out of the 20th century. It was also one of the most disputed, with hundreds of scientists refusing to accept it. Yet with less than $100 and a single day’s worth of labor, there’s a way you can prove it to yourself: by building a cloud chamber. An old fishtank, some 100% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, a metal base with dry ice beneath it and only a few other steps (see the full article for instructions) will allow you to construct a detector capable of seeing unstable cosmic particles. Yet these particles – and you’ll see about 1-per-second – would never reach Earth’s surface if it weren’t for relativity!