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The Effect of Alpha Particles on Nitrogen Nuclei
This experiment was one of the first examples of the artificial transmutation of an element (the changing of one element into another).
Polonium emits both alpha and beta radiations.
The experimenters wanted to find the effect of alpha particles on the nitrogen nuclei so the magnetic field was included to prevent beta particles from reaching the detector (the zinc sulphide screen).
 
With no gas in the container, flashes of light (scintillations) were seen on the screen at a rate proportional to the intensity of the radiation.
 
When the container was filled with nitrogen gas, the scintillations became more frequent.
 
Rutherford suggested that an alpha particle knocks a proton out of a nitrogen nucleus.
These fast moving protons then hit the screen causing the scintillations.
His hypothesis is summarized in the following equation
in which    represents the proton. 
 
The mass of the proton was measured by deflection in a magnetic field.
 
This experiment is considered to be the discovery of the proton.
 
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