Conceptual Physics (12th Edition)

Published by Addison-Wesley
ISBN 10: 0321909100
ISBN 13: 978-0-32190-910-7

Chapter 35 - Think and Discuss: 96

Answer

Time dilation explains why so many muons are detected at sea level.

Work Step by Step

The muon is moving fast enough that the time dilation factor, $\gamma$, is substantial. From our perspective on Earth, the muon’s internal "clock" is running slower than Earth clocks, leaving enough time to reach the ground. In the muon’s own frame of reference, it lives the normal lifetime, but the height of the atmosphere is contracted by a factor $\gamma$, so it has enough time to arrive at sea level.
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