See radioactivity in action!
The chamber is a flat transparent box filled with gas and radioactive rays (Alpha and Beta) that leave a trail of condensate visible to the human eye in the same way that a high altitude jet leaves a vapour trail in the atmosphere. It safely allows you to see radioactivity in action.
The white tracks in the chamber are from a variety of sources, including cosmic radiation hitting the chamber after travelling through the Earth's atmosphere, decay of radon gas originating from small quantities of uranium contained in the museum's walls and radiation from grains of radioactive minerals placed inside the chamber.
What is Radioactivity?
Radioactivity is the spontaneous disintegration of an atomic nucleus with the emission of energy.
All matter is made from atoms and everything in our world contains small amounts of radioactive atoms. When these unstable atoms break down, they release radiation in the form of particles or rays. The three major radiation types are alpha particles (from the nucleus), beta particles (electrons) and gamma rays (energy).
Australia's Hot Rocks
The Mt Painter region in the State's north is home to some of the world's most radioactive rocks.
Uranium and thorium that occur naturally in these rocks heats percolating rainwater which surfaces at Paralana Hot Springs. The heat generated by natural radioactivity in these rocks may soon be harnessed to produce emission-free energy (geothermal energy).
Performance: Dr N R Gee & the Cloud Chamber – An Amazing Atomic Journey!
Atoms, molecules, cosmic rays, electrons, ions, particles…come face to face with extraordinary science through Dr N R Gee's educational performance. This is an interactive musical adventure that will help understand some of the least understood and yet most fundamental ideas in science.
Most of us are unaware we're surrounded by radiation and radioactivity – sources include the ground we walk on, the air we breath, even the food we eat. Everything in our world contains small amounts of radioactive atoms and the Earth is constantly in a flux of cosmic radiation from outer space.
The Cloud Chamber Project at the South Australian Museum demonstrates the 'reality' of radioactivity as a natural physical phenomenon – and the history of radioactivity in South Australia where radium was mined in the Flinders Ranges mere years after the discovery of this element by Pierre and Marie Curie in 1898.
"By understanding the small things, it helps us to make sense of the big things. When you think about it, it's really the little things that make the world go round!"
— Dr N R Gee
Dr N R Gee's performance is best suited for Years 6-12 students. For school group bookings – including the Minerals Gallery – please contact the Education Centre