I'm interested in nuclear physics, and I'm building a cloud chamber. Because I'd like to do science fairs and (eventually) go to college and publish papers in the field of physics, I thought it would be good practice to keep a lab journal. (For reference, I'm in the U.S. and am currently, of course, an amateur.)

I am currently doing some research into how I want to construct part of the cloud chamber and also into which parts I wish to purchase. Is it best practice to record which parts I picked and why I picked them?

Note: If there's any information I should add, please let me know; this is the first question I've asked on Academia.SE.

1 Answer 1


Chemist by myself, but with interaction of physicists in material science, I would recommend to learn Emacs org-mode. Beside Emacs being an editor you may tailor around your needs, org-mode will help you to get better organized (TODO lists). Every thing you write in it will be plain ASCII -- hence easy to maintain, to backup, and to set up for version control; as shown here. It will come with its own, spread-sheet calculator often found powerful enough, so launching a second software is no longer necessary.

You may export all, or sections of your single source file directly into a LaTeX document, or as *.html, or as *.odt to libre office writer, and it's markup often is easier to read (and type) than original LaTeX. Export towards presentations (and even running a presentation) is possible too. You may insert source code, and call for execution from this file, and use the results to be inserted again into your same document; for example pyhthon, or R. Writing publications is eased a lot with org-ref, with a breath-taking demonstration here, yet ties well towards citation managers like zotero as shown for example here.

Hence it becomes much more easy to add, and later to retrieve every detail that would you or others allow to reproduce the experiments you did. This includes the setup of your experiment, which devices were used and why these were chosen. As an example, it is not this uncommon even to note the serial number of their amperemeter used, as some were regularly calibrated against reference standards. Such in chemistry to note not only the chemical, but its purity, the quantity used, the vendor, and the lot of production. In the end, it does not hurt to have much more information in the lab log (within reason), than needed to write the publication.

  • That's a very helpful resource (though you probably are about to start a holy war) but you didn't quite answer my question. I'm merely looking for whether or not research about which parts one has picked for experiments should be included in one's lab journal according to best practices. Thanks again; I will be looking into that.
    – auden
    Feb 26, 2017 at 0:38
  • Such a /holy war/ is not intended, you asked for a personal perspective. And I added a clarification you should take a note which parts were used for the setup and why, too.
    – Buttonwood
    Feb 26, 2017 at 0:53

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