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Understanding our environment

How can we use physics to help understand our surroundings? Find out what exciting physics is around you every day and how the IOP’s home in King's Cross is contributing to physics research.


Boundary layer diagram

The boundary layer

What is happening in the layer of the atmosphere closest to us? We feel the effects of the weather and air pollution every day but how can we better understand the environment around us? How does the environment within a city differ from the countryside and why is this important to understand?

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Cosmic rays diagram

Cosmic rays

Physicists have discovered many things that are invisible to us: radio waves, X-rays and radioactive decay. Up on the roof of the Institute of Physics building is a device for detecting another type of radiation that is invisible to the eye: cosmic rays. The detector was built by students from a local college.

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Diagram of a cloud chamber.

Cloud chamber

There’s invisible radiation all around us. Until 1896, no-one knew it existed. But then Henri Becquerel discovered that rocks containing uranium produced rays that blackened photographic paper. A cloud chamber is a good way to show up the radiation which is present in our environment. This is called background radiation.

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