Rutherford Gold Foil Experiment – Backstage Science

Ernest Rutherford’s famous gold foil experiment involves the scattering of alpha particles as they pass through a thin gold foil.

It led to a better understanding of the structure of atoms.

It’s also known as the Geiger–Marsden experiment, after Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden who performed it under Rutherford’s supervision.

Particle physicist Bruce Kennedy explains wit this modern re-creation.






23 responses to “Rutherford Gold Foil Experiment – Backstage Science”

  1. Harry Brielmann Avatar

    The gold foil is 1.5 microns thick, and the gold atoms atoms are in the nanometer range… how many layers of gold atoms does the helium nuclei need to avoid to pass through without deflection? Thousands? ….Why is only one gold atom shown in the model? That doesnt look like an accurate model to me. How frequently are the alpha particles being emitted? Does gold foil that thick present an effectively solid wall of gold? If helium nuclei pass through easily, how about helium atoms? How about water? Wouldnt a pin-ball sort of behavior be expected for the alpha particles? Helium is a noble gas, but a helium with a +2 charge would be an incredibly reactive ion, desperately seeking electrons…could it react chemically?? These are the sorts of questions that anyone would wonder about. I do. 

  2. Mythical Beast Avatar

    My last name is Rutherford.

  3. Lynn zyy Avatar

     thanks for providing with such clear explanation 🙂  this is easy to understand indeed! 

  4. Milford Vital Avatar

    I'm here because of my assignment

  5. Argenis González Avatar

    Maybe i sound stupid but.. How can there be particles of a particular charge all disposed in a container?

  6. Ema Schopenhauer Avatar

    That's my father. He was a really intelligent guy and I am still so proud of him. <3
    I say 'was'…. he passed away from cancer in 2013.
    But it's nice knowing that if I want to hear his voice again all I have to do is watch this video.
    Thank you.

  7. Shroom Duke Avatar

    Someone get the door!

  8. madsciclare Avatar

    It's REALLY cool to be able to see this experiment-I've only seen it in books!
    Thank you so much!

  9. Oh_So_Sinister Avatar

    Thank you!. I finally understand.

  10. Anish Animix Avatar

    Does that ringing bell tells us that alpha particle is detected by alpha detector..and yeah those detectors must be present @ angel of 180 Degree too.

  11. Si Ni Avatar

    thank u so much….

  12. DutchPhlogiston Avatar

    That bell is extremely annoying and distracting. After the first 2 rings, its not funny anymore. 

  13. pooltrader Avatar


  14. louis tournas Avatar

    Marvin Cervantes:"the brass can? does brass behave the same way that Lead did back in Rutherfords day?"

    Brass and pretty much most metal will work because it stops alpha particles. The gamma ray will mostly pass through and they will hit the detector head on. All you need to do is remove the gamma ray counts from the counter.

  15. Flash Avatar

    I thought gold consist of millions of atoms. The one shown here only has one atom (nucleus).

  16. Virginia Jones Avatar

    My dog was barking at the door all through this. Good way to link Rutherford's experiment with Cern.

  17. NamesDontMatter1992 Avatar

    So useful. Its good to know that someone out there knows what he's doing. 🙂

  18. U WUT M8? Avatar

    I can't focus on what he is saying with that door bell ringing noise

  19. Rahul Gautam Sharma Avatar

    it helped me so much in my studies……

  20. Almas Hashmi Avatar

    yeah…it wasn't too long ago…only a century back 😉

  21. Chapterlegend Avatar

    I put on video, walked away heard the bell ring, paused the video. checked who was at the door, walked back pressed play, heard it again paused. this happen one more time. reset, the video read what it said! and 🙂 lol

  22. Marvin Cervantes Avatar

    the brass can? does brass behave the same way that Lead did back in Rutherfords day?

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