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Science Technology

Build Your Own Cyclotron 187

mindpixel writes "Physics Today is running a story about Tim Koeth's 12 inch cyclotron. Here's a quote that says it all: 'I was sitting in Tom Devlin's modern physics lecture. He described the principle of the cyclotron. He said it required a lot of RF power. I was--and am--a ham radio operator, so RF was no problem. It needed a big magnet; I knew I could find one of those. How tough could a vacuum system and chamber be?'"
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Build Your Own Cyclotron

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:24PM (#10871421)
    I've seen Battlestar Galactica. First you build one, then it tries to kill you!
  • an Orgasmotron?

    Any Dennis Miller Referentially-Challenged types please see /.'ers especially could make use of that technology.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:29PM (#10871456)
    I see "12 inch" and "vacuum" in the same story.

    Is /. posting spam now?
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:29PM (#10871458)
    I fucking hate ugly magnets because I still find them almost as attractive as the cute ones.
  • by Hulkster ( 722642 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:30PM (#10871460) Homepage
    I too was a mild-mannered scientist, until I was hit with an accidental dose of Gamma Rays and turned in The Incredible Hulk [] ... so Tim should be careful.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have only one question.... can I cook my eggs in the morning with it ?

    • No, but if you're not careful, it could accelerate the particles of your bacon to the speed of light, and blast 'em through your neighbors wall. :)

      Ok, maybe I'm not clear on what one of these things does either. I looked around on the net, and am still like, "ummm".

    • Actually, given enought beam current it could. Of course it would also activate your eggs so they'd be radioactive to some degree but think of it as self-radiating food - they would stay fresh for ages :-)
  • cyclotron (Score:5, Informative)

    by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:30PM (#10871466)
    n. A circular particle accelerator in which charged subatomic particles generated at a central source are accelerated spirally outward in a plane perpendicular to a fixed magnetic field by an alternating electric field. A cyclotron is capable of generating particle energies between a few million and several tens of millions of electron volts.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:33PM (#10871480)
    I made a cloud chamber in junior high (and I graduated from high school in 1972, so do the math.)

    A little dry ice, some alcohol, black paper, a strong light, a petri dish (I think it was), and a bit of the stuff from the hand of a watch.

    It actually worked; I could see an occasional trail of condensation, but the thrill was not that it worked but that I built it. I would not have been thrilled one bit less if it hadn't of worked at all.
  • The recipe is:

    1. A bunch of RF (is that the metric or English "bunch"?).
    2. A large magnet (mine sez Acme, is that okay?)
    3. A vacuum system... Well I know of a woman who can suck chrome, so I guess that would be good enough.
    4. A chamber.... Okay yah got me stumped here sparky. Is a Altoids tin good enough?

    Hmmmm.... Or how about my ol' microwave oven? (2/4 requirements)...
  • No Fair! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jozer99 ( 693146 )
    No fair, I thought there would be instructions!
  • by Anonymous Chemist ( 62398 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:47PM (#10871552)
    Scientific American used to run article on how to build things for physics. Seems like prior to persuing chemistry and electrical engineering my brothers and I built Van Der Graff generators, cloud chambers, and lots more from those pages. They had an old design for a particle accelerator as well. It was NOWHERE near this.

    Fascibnating to read an article like this
  • Cyclotron chess set (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:47PM (#10871553)
    I'm going to make the king out of a linear accelerator. For the pawns I'll use my run-of-the-mill 5 keV cyclotrons.

    A friend of mine in the physics program at Rutgers built the can crusher demo they have. It discharges a huge HV paper-oil capacitor through a coil of copper tubing about six or seven turns long, wrapped around a plexiglass tube. You put the can in the tube, close the switch, and POW the can is instantly crushed into a hot crumpled aluminum stick the width of your thumb because the field sets up a countercurrent in the can which repels the main coils. Even my girlfriend was impressed. We used to discharge the capacitor bank across thin wire-wrap wire, which vaporizes pretty well. He's working at some military contractor nowadays, working on ultrapowerful lasers. Which probably suits him better than the fiber optic sissy lasers he was working on before the telecom crash.

    Another thing you should know if you take physics at Rutgers is that the physics auditorium is probably exposing you to mercury vapor. Legend has it that they did a "mercury hammer" demo one time with liquid nitrogen, where you pour the mercury in and freeze it, then pull it out and pound nails with it. Someone got the bright idea of passing the hammer around the room, and during its trip through the audience it started to drip. Only some of it made it back to the front of the room.

    • Another thing you should know if you take physics at Rutgers is that the physics auditorium is probably exposing you to mercury vapor.

      Centuries ago I was doing a thesis project at an Air Force lab, and was measuring some pressures with a mercury manometer about six feet high, made of 1/4 inch ID tubing. If I had ever blown that thing, there would have been a couple of pounds of mercury skittering around on the concrete.

      Then a safety inspector came in and told me I had to put an overflow bottle on the man

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Safety and Mercury are two terms that have only recently met. Around '76 in our suburban high school the physics instructor would bring out a plain old 6" wide glass jar (tin screw cap taped shut) half full of mercury and let each of us lift it a quarter inch off the counter to feel just how impossibly heavy a liquid could be.

        Great demo, but jeeeze... just one kid goofs and that jar would'a cracked wide. The god who protects fools did overtime back then.
        • when my dad was in highschool he and his brother snuck into the chem lab and ended up dumping a jar of Hg all over the floor. Hard wood floors, so it was impossible to totally clean up
          • when my dad was in highschool he and his brother snuck into the chem lab and ended up dumping a jar of Hg all over the floor.

            Frank Zappa's father worked as a meteorologist at a military arsenal and used to come home with mercury for the kids. His autobiography talks about it: "One of the things I used to like to do was pour the mercury on the floor and hit it with a hammer, so it squirted all over the place. I lived in mercury."

            My father never brought home so much as a blob. I might have been a rock star
            • School I went to used to have a bottle of uranyl acetate on an open shelf in the chemistry lab. Apparently that acetate of uranium is a standard reagent for some test or other. Whatever it was used for, it was far more radioactive than the official radiation sources kept in a lead box, locked away under the stairs. Actually, my physics teacher's watch was more radioactive than the official sources - pre-war radium dial...
              • I remember when the women who painted those radium dials were dying off in the 1950s. Seems they would lick their brushes to get the right painting consistency.

                Here in Colorado, there are a number of hot springs bearing radioactive the early 20th century, people paid to sit in them to "take the cure." At one time, there were radium pills and even radium suppositories.

      • Oh, harsh! Over here in sector 7-G we just give the guy a couple donuts, a beer, and a drinking bird to play with, and he goes away happy. Since then I've gotten a couple emails from him consisting entirely of an endless string of the letter "Y", so I'm pretty sure the drinking bird is covering for him.
  • Venkman... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <> on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:51PM (#10871579) Homepage Journal
    Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.

    Just seemed appropriate...
  • Excellent story! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by farrellj ( 563 ) * on Friday November 19, 2004 @09:53PM (#10871585) Homepage Journal
    This goes to show you that you don't need megabucks to do good science! To many, half of science is the challenge, not the successes, but they are nice, of course [grin].

    I don't see why this mind-set couldn't be used for teaching science and computers on the high school level....Find a company that is getting rid of their dozens of old Pentium II system, get them to donate them to the highschool, and build a Beowulf or OpenMosix cluster to allow HS students to learn the fundamentals of supercomputing environments. Get a local university to help teach them...and you now have a chance of producing better educated computer geeks...and the physics & chemistry geeks and run small simulations as well.

    Just an idea...

  • That sounds a good idea to me. If they can get that to work, then that would be very interesting!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1 MeV... 1 Million electron volts


    The 1961 Bevatron was something like 6.5 Billion electron volts.

    What next, the guys build their own crystal radio?
    • by HeghmoH ( 13204 )
      If that's the state of the art in 1930's nuclear technology, then we should have guys building fission warheads in their basements around 2015.
  • No big deal..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @10:03PM (#10871635) Homepage
    Go out and get yourself a copy of "The Amateur Scientist" collection on CD.

    For those of you who are too young to remember the column, or before it was dumbed down, Scientific American had a column called "The Amateur Scientist" - they had plans for a cyclotron, a SERIOUSLY high power CO2 laser and LOTS of other things that could get you hurt in a real hurry. And they showed REAL experiments, and REAL science in that column.

    Of course, that was before SciAmerican got dumbed down, became half ads, and became PC - you could actually find desenting views in REAL papers
    • Re:No big deal..... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by John Miles ( 108215 )
      The Amateur Scientist volume actually had a small linear accelerator, not a cyclotron. A van de Graaf generator was coupled to a homebrew vacuum tube of the same height, with a filament in the base and a sample platform at the top.

      What these guys did is a whole different kettle of fish. As cool as the Amateur Scientist accelerator article was, this cyclotron project is about 100x more complex and 1000x niftier. I wish I had the time, space, cash, and electricity to duplicate it!
      • Re:No big deal..... (Score:3, Informative)

        by CharlieG ( 34950 )
        Sept 1953 - cyclotron
        • Seriously? It wasn't in the original anthology of the columns that I have, then. I'll have to surf eBay for that issue.
          • Not too detailed - more just a general "here's how a bunch of HS students did it"

            Don't dig for the magazine - the whole stack was released on CD a couple of years back - I think I got it on sale for less than $20 - the ATM stuff (which was later released in a collection of 3 books) is worth that alone


    • I've been looking at this for a while now. Unfortunately returning it is difficult, (my lawyer could do it, but I don't think I could) so I refuse to order it unless I know it will work on my computer. So far all I've been able to find is that it works on Microsoft systems. Not to helpful when I don't own one.

      So, since you have a copy, if I mount the CD on my linux/FreeBSD system, will I be able to read the articles?

      • Not sure - but it's got a "tux" linux logo on the box, so I "assume" it'll work
      • Yes. It is HTML-based. The most useful navigation tool is the search engine, which is a java applet that runs from the CD. This will be hit-or-miss, depending on browser & JVM. It can work. I just created an index of the articles on my hard drive. I suppose you can also just grep through them.

        It does have topical and date-based indexes, so you don't even need the search applet.

        You may want to mount as check=r[elaxed], as the HTML files link to files with capitalization that doesn't always match
      • Regarding returns: I think they would take them if you had a legitimate complaint. I'm told none have been returned due to the search applet not working and, as I said, it works under Linux.
  • Great! (Score:2, Funny)

    by DAldredge ( 2353 )
    Now those in DC will try to get /. banned because this is an evil, scary device that terrorists might use for SOMETHING... ;->
    • Now those in DC will try to get /. banned because this is an evil, scary device that terrorists might use for SOMETHING... ;->

      Don't worry - If the recent election accomplished nothing else... "Those in DC" can't even parse the title, nevermind RTFM. ;-)

      Unless they can download an official pirated MPAA cheat-sheet off one of the other "internets"...
  • The scary thing about the article is that it shows that 1930s/1940s technology is not the magic black art that most americans think. By that, I mean most americans are happy to think 'oh it takes such great amounts of technology and resources to build a nuke'... that was true - 60 years ago. For us to think that we've kept the lid closed on these types of weapons-technology only further pushes us into false senses of security. Its better that we strike now, blast everyone else into pre-stone age technology
  • I will resist making o/c comments on this post.
    I will resist making fanboy comments on this post.
    I will resist making riaa/mpaa comments on this post.
    I will resist making political/outsourcing comments on this post.
    I will resist making "that's nothing, i used to make my cyclotrons with a couple of diodes and a pizza box" comments on this post.

    That being said, it's a welcome change reading some genuinely good posts like this one (and the one on chess pieces yesterday). IMHO, one of the reasons that Ame
    • I hold people like Tim Koeth in higher regard than than any theoretical scientist anyday.

      I was with you, up until this point. Why place someone with an experimentalist bent higher (or lower) than someone with a theoretical one. They are both important, and without one, the other could not exist.

      I hold people who show intelligence, drive, and initiative in high regard, no matter what they choose to apply their interest to.
    • I hold people like Tim Koeth in higher regard than than any theoretical scientist anyday.
      Lets see... You regard someone who makes a replica, with little scientific or engineering value, of a device seventy years old... Above someone working at the frontiers of knowledge.
  • by thomas536 ( 464403 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @10:21PM (#10871698)
    Fun with fusion: Freshman's nuclear fusion reactor has USU physics faculty in awe,1249,510054502,00 .html []

    It never seemed to me like it was actually fusion, but hey, whatever...

    • It definatly is fusion, that's where the neutrons come from. Unfortunatly, causing that fusion to happen in this design requires a good bit more energy than the fusion reactions release. More unfortunatly, if there is a way to fix that, it's a very hard problem.

  • Not just that. (Score:3, Informative)

    by asciiwhite ( 679872 ) * <> on Friday November 19, 2004 @10:22PM (#10871706)
    from the site... []

    We have been Slashdotted on October 20, 2002 !

    Looks like it can accellerate more then particles.

    • Almost everything on /. lately has been a repost of old news. It's been a trend for at least 6 months now. Just most /.ers don't actually RTFA and realize this. The worst part is, the editors don't either
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2004 @10:33PM (#10871752)
    ...when most cyclotrons are only around 5.5 inches.
  • by DiracFeynman ( 655294 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @10:43PM (#10871790) Journal
    As a grad student in physics i've aided my professor in the construction of a VSM (vibrating sample magnetometer, 5T sweep field) and a low-temperature MOKE (magneto-optical Kerr effect) system which is housed in a vacuum chamber. I've had absolutely no fun dealing with hivac systems. So many parameters; such as the oil on your body, hair, microscopic defects in gaskets, and miniscule amounts of dust can really play a role on the vacuum that can be achieved. Then comes the fun of finding the leaks...ahhh! All in all, it was a good experience, though. So go build something. Take it easy.
  • After reading a very good book on all kinds of Physics experiments from the late 50's I decided to build a linear accelerator, I lived on a farm at the time and all the needed materials were at hand (as well as a fully equipped machine shop) it was roughly 40ft long and ran along side the chiken coop my grandad thought I was nuts, my dad thought it was great, I had fun with it for about a week until popping fuses annoyed my grandad to the point he said scrap it.

    A cyclotron seemed like the easy route.
  • 1. Build Cyclotron
    2. ???
    3. Profit!
  • These guys were just really lucky to find what they need. It is surely a great accomplishement, however, considering the real overall cost of the accelerator and the experiments that can be done with it, a linear Van der Graff accelerator, about 2 meters long will be much cheaper and would enable undergrads to do about the same experiments.

  • I want to learn how to build my very own Cybertron!
  • This is an electrostatic inertial confinment fusion device. They have been built as neutron sources. I've always thought that someone should do some more research on electrostatic fusion. I'd throw a few bucks their way to help build one if they had a way of taking donations.

  • owning my very own orbital ion cannon. Anyone interesting in focusing that beautiful red stream of death out the bottom of that thing?
  • My physic professor in college wistfully relayed a story of driving to Oakridge Tennessee where a cyclotron surrounded the campus. It reminded him of his student days at California in the 30's when he held the first cyclotron in his hands.
  • They can irradiate drugs to create radioactive tracers for the local radiology labs and make a killing doing it too!

    By the end of the year, they'd have gone and paid off their little investment.
  • "Building your own cyclotron? Thats easy. What you have to do is build a linear accelerator"- Steve Urkel

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.