Опасная зона

Опасная зона

Friday, December 31, 2010

I have seen the LIGHT!

There are ten things any physicist must have done or seen during his career.

Point one is to split the unsplittable - an atom. I had my chance for the first time as a student at our 400 keV van de Graaf accelerator where we shot protons on LiF targets measuring some resonances. I had big expectations about this. Well - not directly imagining to hear a popping sound when the atoms fall into smaller fragments, but we could at least estimate the energy released hereby. Still, it was remarkably undramatic experience.

This is not true for point 2: seeing the light! And of course I don't think of ordinary light, but Cherenkov radiation, which is emitted when e.g. electrons move faster than the speed of light of the media they move in. Last summer I visited the Institute for Nuclear Chemistry in Mainz, where they have a small nuclear reactor, a TRIGA mark II by General Atomics.

I stood on top of the reactor core and looked directly into water pool which contained it. The core usually operates with up to a 100 kW.

The video below shows a short 250 MW pulse which I recorded with my crappy mobile phone camera. They dimmed the light in the reactor hall first (which is why the video starts black) and I had no idea of how strong the flash would be.

There are plenty of videos out there showing the same effect much more beautifully. Still, I like this video a lot: it was the first time I witnessed Cherenkov radiation.

Me: "WHOA! ....... Das ist ja Wahnsinn!"

What are the other 8 points a true physicist must see? I have not decided yet. (If you have any ideas, let me know. :-)