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.


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  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

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