Artist Inadvertently Builds Hodoscope

A Hodoscope is an instrument used to determine the trajectory of charged particles. It’s built out of a three-dimensional matrix of particle detectors – either PIN diodes or Geiger tubes – arranged in such a way that particles can be traced along coincident detectors, revealing their trajectory.

This is not a hodoscope. It’s a chandelier. This chandelier is made of 92 individual Geiger tubes, each connected to a single LED fixture and a speaker. When a charged particle flies through the room and hits a Geiger tube, the light fixture lights up, a ‘click’ plays on the speaker, and the entire room is enveloped in light for a short moment in time. If, however, that charged particle continues on to another Geiger tube, the trajectory of the particle can be deduced.

The purpose of the installation – beside just being art or something – is to show the viewer sources of radiation and normal levels of radioactivity due to terrestrial and cosmic sources. Of course the spacing of these detectors is rather large – it’s made to fit in a gallery – and there is no connection between the detectors, making a coincident circuit impossible. If you want a real hodoscope, here you go.

This installation can be seen at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY through April 12. If you’re in the area, go there and eat a banana. Video below. Thanks [David] for the tip.

31 thoughts on “Artist Inadvertently Builds Hodoscope

    1. A traditional geiger counter can show about 3CPM from ambient radiation. This varies for lots of reasons, but 3CPM is not unusual. (It’s higher in NH than Nebraska, it’s higher with higher altitudes, it’s higher during solar storms, &c.)

      There’s also some variation with the tube voltage. It’s possible to crank up the voltage and detect more (lower energy) events, but too much and you risk burning out the tube.

      If you have 30 tubes at 3CPM that’s about 900 CPM, which is roughly what the chandelier is showing.

  1. When someone tries to take science and make it into art, things get really screwy. Some of these new age artists are frankly smoking crack. If anything, it was annoying to watch. This could have been done far more elegantly. How about fading the tube after a strike. This thing, whatever you want to call it, is just going to generate some good seizures in epileptics. I’m not going to discredit the idea. The ‘artist’ clearly has a vision of a weird radiation activated chandelier, but man it needs better refinement. If you are going to drop the cash on all those Geiger tubes and driving circuits, at least make it worth watching. The fact this made it into an exhibit just shows how strange people are getting.

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