Rolling with Rutherford
Students use statistics to make an indirect measurement they can easily confirm.
Students will perform an experiment similar to Rutherford’s ground breaking discover of the structure of atoms: they will fire a probe at a target and observe how often the path of the probe changes. In this case, the “probe” and the “target” are balls and the “firing” is replaced with “rolling.” They will use their data to calculate the diameter of the ball. The activity allows the students to use indirect measurements to determine a parameter; it also allows the students to see how Rutherford made his influential discovery. That discovery yielded today’s model of the atom.