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Transporting a 15-Meter-Wide, 600-Ton Magnet Cross Country 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-take-a-lot-of-stamps dept.
necro81 writes "Although its Tevatron particle accelerator has gone dark, Fermi Laboratory outside Chicago is still doing physics. A new experiment, called muon g-2 will investigate quantum mechanical behavior of the electron's heavier sibling: the muon. Fermi needs a large ring chamber to store the muons it produces and investigates, and it just so happens that Brookhaven National Laboratory outside NYC has one to spare. But how do you transport a delicate, 15-m diameter, 600-ton superconducting magnet halfway across the country? Very carefully."
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Transporting a 15-Meter-Wide, 600-Ton Magnet Cross Country

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  • by dadelbunts (1727498) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:31PM (#43786361)
    I would be so tempted to just drive by datacenters wiping all their data. It probably wouldnt work BUT I CAN DREAM CANT I!
  • Brookhaven to Batavia is only about 1000 miles by even a lax road route. Where the heck is this thing going, on a national tour? The web site claims it will travel 3,200 miles. Is it going to spring break first?

    • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:42PM (#43786561)

      FTA: "The Muon g-2 ring, an electromagnet made of steel and aluminum, begins its 3,200-mile trek from New York in early June. From there, it will sail by barge down the East Coast, around Florida's tip into the Gulf of Mexico, then up the Mississippi River until it arrives in Illinois."

      • Makes you wonder what's wrong with the Great Lakes route which is presumably much shorter.
        • Makes you wonder what's wrong with the Great Lakes route which is presumably much shorter.

          My guess would be the waves on the lake are too choppy to keep the magnet ring level. The waves are far choppier (higher frequency) on the Great Lakes than they are in the ocean.

        • It's on Long Island, which means you'd have to cross through NYC in order to get it out to Upstate New York by road. That alone might be impossible - I'm not sure you'd be able to drive it past a certain point on the island, you wouldn't make it to Manhattan, and by the time you're loading it on a boat to get it across to Connecticut or Massachusetts, with an unload there and another loading at the lakes, it might just be cheaper and less error prone to ship it around to the Gulf.
        • by frinkster (149158)

          Makes you wonder what's wrong with the Great Lakes route which is presumably much shorter.

          To use the Great Lakes route (as they are currently used), the magnet would be required to go out into the open ocean, go around Cape Cod and the rest of Massachusetts, go around Nova Scotia and into the St Lawrence Seaway, which would then allow it to enter Lake Ontario, go through the Welland Canal into Lake Erie, and on and on to Chicago. The open ocean is what is going to kill it.

          The chosen route will almost certainly be through the intracoastal waterway [wikipedia.org] which requires very little open ocean travel - a

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            The locks on the Erie Canal can handle a vessel 43.5 feet wide. The magnet is around 49 feet wide. In addition, there is only 15 feet of bridge clearance (not sure if that is a problem or not).

      • FTA: "The Muon g-2 ring, an electromagnet made of steel and aluminum, begins its 3,200-mile trek from New York in early June. From there, it will sail by barge down the East Coast, around Florida's tip into the Gulf of Mexico, then up the Mississippi River until it arrives in Illinois."

        So just in time for hurricane season http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Atlantic_hurricane_season [wikipedia.org]

    • by bdcrazy (817679)

      I would imagine bridge clearances and weight limits on bridges would be at least 2 of the issues leading to the path chosen. (others would be things like permits, powerlines etc)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the article:
      "... involves loading the ring onto a specially prepared barge and bringing it down the East Coast, around the tip of Florida and up the Mississippi River to Illinois. The ring is expected to leave New York in early June, and land in Illinois in late July. Once it arrives, the ring will be placed onto a truck built just for this purpose, and driven to Fermilab in Batavia, a suburb of Chicago."

    • by tibit (1762298)

      It would be way too complex, logistically, to have it shipped by road directly. It pretty much blocks one direction of traffic on a divided highway. It will travel probably a 100 miles or so over land, and the rest by barge - down the east coast, and up the Mississippi River.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        Up to the st Lawrence and it can dock in Chicago. That would actually be shorter and faster than the Mississippi As the river and locks would slow things down out on the great lakes themselves they can get up to full speed.

      • My radio observatory is about to have a 12 meter telescope antenna transported from central New Mexico to western Arizona. They have the same problem, but I imagine the saving grace is that the southwestern desert doesn't care if freeway traffic is blocked for an hour.
    • by lexarius (560925)
      Apparently tipping it more than a few degrees causes permanent damage. If you have to detour around very small hills, you might have to detour a very long way.
    • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nukenbar (215420) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:45PM (#43786629)

      Like most hung things, it is easier to take via water, even if the ground sea distance is much greater than a straight line approach.

      The majority of the trip will be via barge.

      • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:55PM (#43786825)

        Here's an Idea, why not move the Scientists? Greyhound bus.

        Or telecommute?

        • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

          by funky49 (182835) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:05PM (#43786963) Homepage

          Basically they are moving the instrument to a facility that can make a better stream of particles to steer into it.

        • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jeffmeden (135043) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:08PM (#43787019) Homepage Journal

          Here's an Idea, why not move the Scientists? Greyhound bus.

          Or telecommute?

          They need to get *muons* into the ring, not the scientists. And Muons only survive on their own for 2 microseconds so even telecommuting [spreadnetworks.com] is out of the question.

          • And Muons only survive on their own for 2 microseconds

            That's easy to fix - boost them to ~260 GeV and they will last long enough to make a 1,600 km journey. It's the 1,600 km of vacuum pipe and focussing magnets that is the real problem.

            • lol.
              This is slashdot, but not many people will understand this joke.

              • by Noughmad (1044096)

                What joke? Due to relativistic time dilation, if they are moving faster, their observed lifetime in our system of reference will be longer.

        • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

          by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:13PM (#43787079) Homepage

          We usually prefer airplanes to buses (lots cheaper, given the time value of money.....)

          The cost of running the experiment again at Brookhaven (which had been our initial idea) would be significantly higher than moving it to Fermilab, because of the cost of required accelerator upgrades at Brookhaven. Fermilab has protons to spare, and the experiment fits into the larger muon program at the Lab. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/experiments/intensity/ [fnal.gov]

          • by cusco (717999)
            Why didn't they barge this through the Great Lakes instead of up the Mississippi? The only reason occurs to me is perhaps some spots on the Chicago River might have been too narrow where it passes under bridges, but even that seems unlikely.
            • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

              by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#43787469) Homepage

              Both routes were considered, but I'm not sure why one was chosen over the other. Presumably input from the companies bidding on the contract had something to do with it.

              • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

                by LoRdTAW (99712) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @07:22PM (#43788721)

                It is a lot easier to move 600 tons by barge than by land. The size and weight makes it impossible to go over bridges and most roads. Not only is the weight highly concentrated, 1.2 million pounds for the magnet and probably another 300,000+ for the modular platform trailers & tractor but the width is nearly 50 feet. At that weight your speed is severely limited, always below 5 mph and you are limited to moving at night only. From the map, I would guess it might make its way south on floyd then onto a barge in the bay. I don't see how they could get it anywhere on the north shore unless they go up floyd to 25 and take lilco rd to use the docks at the power station (if it fits up those roads). From there its an easy trip on water. No bridges, narrow roads or worries about weight. Its open water until the Mississippi.

                You also have to take into account the cost and process to apply for permits. You have to plan the route in advance and have it approved by the DOT. By law you need a police escort for a load that large in NY, more money. Imagine planning a route for hundreds of miles involving police escorts, road closures, moving only at night, slow speeds and having to deal with routing around bridges (if possible) and maybe needing to reinforce bridges/overpasses. It can and has been done many times but its costly and time consuming. It can take upward of a year or more to plan a move that big.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                I asked the head of Emmert (the shipping company) this question a few weeks ago. From that brief conversation, it is my understanding that the Southern/Mississippi route was chosen despite the longer distance for safety reasons, which is the primary concern. The claim was that they could hug the coast and pull into safe harbor in the event of inclement conditions, while the Northern route up the St. Lawrence, etc. has stretches where the barge would not have that option and was, therefore, riskier.

        • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

          by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:27PM (#43787253)

          They're moving the magnet to a particle accelerator. It's already at one, and it generated some interesting findings, but the particle accelerator it's currently at is too weak to give a margin of error low enough to safely call it a discovery.

          Thus, they're moving it to a more powerful accelerator, since moving the accelerator to it is not exactly an option.

        • by mpeskett (1221084)
          They're sure going to feel silly when they realise how easy it really was all along. Especially if they ever find out that some guy from the internet beat them to the punch on such an obvious idea.
      • re: Like most hung things,...it is easier to take via water...

        There's a joke there, but I'm not touching it.

        .

        ... but I'm not touching it....

        That's what she said!

        Oh wait, I done goofed on myself if I were a guy. I musta got that joke meme wrong somehow... ;>)

    • by kobatan (1103577)

      It's going by barge for most of the journey. From the article: "It will float from New York Harbor in June, down the East Coast, around Florida, up the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River by July."

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        It's going by barge for most of the journey. From the article: "It will float from New York Harbor in June, down the East Coast, around Florida, up the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River by July."

        I got the barge part, but the Mississippi part was buried a bit further. I pictured a trip across the Great Lakes. Don't they know about the Erie Canal?

        • by kobatan (1103577)

          I assume they ruled it out for one reason or another. I live in the UK. I don't have enough local knowledge to comment further sensibly.

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          The Erie Canal is not used for commercial traffic very much anymore. 2008 was its busiest recent year, and there were only 42 shipments that year.

        • I live near the Erie Canal. You can't get something that big through it. It barely fits a passenger your boat at some points. I know at least a couple of locations in a 50 mile stretch where it would get stuck in the area.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      Um at 3,200 miles I bet it goes by ship up the St Lawrence around the channels and locks and docks in Chicago.

      That would br roughly that for range. and takes a lot of the traffic out .

      • by shoor (33382)

        That was my thought too (up the St Lawrence), but I read enough of the fine article to see that it's going down the Atlantic seaboard and then up the Mississippi. I understand going by water as much as possible, but why that route?

  • Maglev train, of course!
  • UPS (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    UPS and lots of bubble wrap!

  • By using another 600-ton magnet, flipped around, of course.

  • Amtrak!

    (Too soon??)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cover the thing with a tarp, and you've got a mysterious huge disc-shaped object being trucked around escorted by police... Can't wait to see the alien conspiracy sites light up!

  • ... then I can see absolutely no reason that a package that is clearly marked fragile, and probably nowhere near as fragile as this monstrosity, should be mishandled in transit *EVER* again.

    I hope they pull this off.

    I look forward to an age where couriers can actually be relied upon to deliver such goods without subjecting them to g forces beyond what their structural integrity can withstand.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      ... then I can see absolutely no reason that a package that is clearly marked fragile, and probably nowhere near as fragile as this monstrosity, should be mishandled in transit *EVER* again.

      I hope they pull this off.

      I look forward to an age where couriers can actually be relied upon to deliver such goods without subjecting them to g forces beyond what their structural integrity can withstand.

      I think most couriers/handlers see "fragile" more as a challenge than as a warning. You know, see how far it can bend before it will break, that kind of thing.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      I'm sure if you pay the same price they do to ship your fragile package it'd arrive in pristine condition too.
  • by QuasiRob (134012) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:58PM (#43786869)
    By the time it arrived I wonder if it was covered in bits of wire, steel cans, bikes. screws and other random bits of iron.
  • This would have made for an awesome episode of "Shipping Wars".
  • It's not a magnet (Score:4, Informative)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:02PM (#43786921)

    It's not a magnet, it's an electromagnet, which just makes it a large and sensitive piece of equipment rather than a big magnet.

    When I saw the headline and summary, I thought they were going to have to take special precautions to stay away from metals and other materials that could be affected by the huge magnet.

  • Wouldn't it be cheaper to move the people and the money? 90% of the time the people involved don't even have to be near the machine, with this newfangled internet thing that some people invented...

    • by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:15PM (#43787095) Homepage

      As I mentioned up above, it turns out to be loads cheaper to move the experiment to Fermilab than to upgrade the accelerator complex at Brookhaven to do the experiment there.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      Because there is a lot of very, very expensive equipment at Fermilab already. As big of a deal as this thing is, the stuff that is already there is far more pricey and extensive. Physicists are easy to move; their equipment isn't.

  • by boaworm (180781) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:20PM (#43787163) Homepage Journal

    >> The trip will be tense, because the ring’s massive electromagnet cannot tilt or twist more than a few degrees, or the wiring inside will be irreparably damaged. It will float from New York Harbor in June, down the East Coast, around Florida, up the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River by July.

    That seems rather risky. Most ships would at one point or another tilt more than a few degrees to either side due to .. waves. No mention on if this is a gyro-stabilized barge perhaps...

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      Ask them. I assume it's some sort of stabilized platform inside. I'm sure such specialty devices have been made in the past and they'd make a custom interior for that device.

    • Transporting on land will be the easy part. They will use a Goldhofer trailer that has hydraulic leveling axles that will keep the entire deck of the trailer flat and level. But, if it was my equipment, I would make sure their is a large gap from the trailer to the actual magnets so it doesn't affect my control systems for steering the trailer. For the barge, odd are that they will leave the magnet on the Goldhofer trailer. That way, the trailer can keep it from twisting and tilting if the barge does.
      • by Entropius (188861)

        It's an electromagnet, so nothing interesting happens unless it's got a whopping big current in it.

  • Wouldn't it be much shorter all around to go by the Saint Lawrence Seaway? Shorter on the water and shorter distance in Illinois???
  • It's not really that tough a job. The thing is about 4 lanes wide, and not excessively tall. There's less than 20 miles of road movement at each end of the trip. So it's going to be a routine big move with brief road closures. Probably late at night.

    The rest of the trip is by barge, down the East Coast, around Florida, and up the Mississippi, Illinois, and DesPlanes rivers to Chicago. There are standard barges which can easily handle something of that size. The locks on that route have 110 foot width.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:24PM (#43788093)

    That's just a cover story. They're really moving the Stargate.

  • by HtR (240250)

    If you turn it on, you should be able to just pull it along behind a train, assuming the tracks could be electrified as needed (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maglev [wikipedia.org] for details if necessary).
    Then again, if this "superconductor" really has super powers as its name implies, it should be able to fly.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @08:46PM (#43789319)

    I remember back in Elementary school watching the Hale telescope mirror movie. One of those old 16mm, rainy day, hell the teacher has to have a cigarette break flicks? Old black and white footage is available here: http://archive.org/details/capsca_00001 [archive.org]

    Anyway, when they shipped the blank out to Caltech by Train it was put in a steel case. The Blank was then polished at Caltech to make the 200" mirror for the telescope and that was shipped via truck to Palomar Mountain. Anyway, they put it in a special casing for shipment and when they arrived at Palomar, they found bullet holes in the casing. Even back then, the local Luddites just wanted to spoil the fun. Anyway, my point is here that if they could ship a 200 inch mirror in the early part of the 20th century, they should be able to easily transport a 15mm magnet that's hollow in the middle.

  • The article mentions muons traveling at the speed of light. I think it's important to discern that they are moving /close/ to the speed of light, but not at the speed of light.
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @10:30PM (#43790015)

    Get a hobbit to do it. Its the only way.

  • by tengu1sd (797240) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @10:44PM (#43790085)

    At Coyote Road Services we specialize in creative uses for powerful magnets. Over the years, our company has coordinated many road closures and infrastructure upgrades. The skilled technicians and engineers use top rated ACME equipment in our projects. Coyote Road Services, call and one of our agents will take you to lunch and go over your project plan.

  • Hmm... it may be possible to create an electromagnet run off a mobile power supply that would put North to North or South to South so that the magnet would levitate off a surface and ride smoothly. Depends on configuration of the magnet though.

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