Rolling with Rutherford
Students use statistics to make an indirect measurement they can easily confirm.
Students will perform an experiment similar to Rutherford’s: 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.