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Cosmic Rays

Keywords: Reference Frames, Special Relativity, Time Dilation, Space Contraction, Length Contraction, Hyperbolic Trigonometry, Small Group Activity

Highlights of the activity

  1. This small group activity is designed to help upper division undergraduate students work out the lifetime of cosmic rays taking relativistic effects into account.
  2. Students work in small groups and use hyperbolic trigonometry and spacetime diagrams to calculate the lifetime of incoming cosmic rays.
  3. The entire class wrap-up discussion summarizes group findings and difficulties, helping students gain a geometric perspective of time dilation and length contraction.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

  • Improves understanding of time dilation and length contraction.
  • Provides practice with spacetime diagrams.
  • Demonstrates important real-world consequence of special relativity.


Instructor's Guide

Student Handouts



Authors: Tevian Dray
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