American Journal of Physics
An experiment to study the effect of relativistic time dilation on secondary muon fluxes observed at different altitudes is described in this article. Muons, produced as secondary particles from the interaction of primary cosmic rays with the upper atmosphere, form a natural and abundant source of subatomic ``clocks'' moving at very high speeds. The measured muon flux on a mountain relative to that measured at sea level can be compared to predictions from calculations that take into account the relativistic time dilation in the muon frame. Situations under which such an experiment can be successfully performed are explored with a day-long field trip to a nearby mountain. This experiment has been developed at Smith College as a module in the Five College cooperative undergraduate advanced laboratory course (other participating institutions are Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts).
01.50.Pa, 03.30.+p, 96.40.Tv, Laboratory experiments and apparatus, Special relativity
© 1991 American Association of Physics Teachers
Easwar, Nalini and MacIntire, Douglas A., "Study of the Effect of Relativistic Time Dilation on Cosmic Ray Muon Flux - Undergraduate Modern Physics Experiment" (1991). Physics: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.