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Fermilab — Excursions Into Matter, Space and Time 71

An anonymous reader writes "Fermilab is one of the great physics research facilities in the U.S. It is mainly known for its Tevatron proton/anti-proton accelerator to help physicists understand how materials interact with each other. TG Daily has a extensive article detailing Fermilab's accelerator chain and the work that is being done there. It's an interesting read, especially since many of us won't have a chance to visit Fermilab and the fact that the Tevatron accelerator is scheduled to be shut down next year."
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Fermilab — Excursions Into Matter, Space and Time

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  • by mastermemorex ( 1119537 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:26PM (#20373027)
    All we have to know about mater-space-time is in the series documental Star-Trek.
    • Mother Space-Time? Is she related to Mother Freedom? Has anyone written a song about her?

      ``The Big Bang (the Mother of all Space-Time)'' by Hotblack Desiato & Disaster Area (parental lyrics warning)
    • Star Trek may be fictional and even wrong sometimes, but puts you in the right mindset, i.e. that of science. Unlike other recent successes (*caugh* Harry Potter *caugh*) which are completely mindless...
  • Fermilab Bison (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sonoronos ( 610381 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:32PM (#20373129)
    One thing that the article leaves out, unfortunately, is another unique property of Fermilab - that it owns a herd of American Bison. Having "signature" animals at National Labs isn't unique to Fermi - for example, Argonne National Labs, also in Illinois, has a large population of the cream-colored Dama Dama "White Deer." However, while Argonne merely allows the deer to roam freely on its land, Fermilab Bison are actively cultivated by the lab, creating some really fine breeding studs, and acting as a sustainable way of preserving one aspect of the natural "Prairie" that is part of North American history.
    • Plus, they fed us great buffalo burgers a few times when I was there as an undergrad student helping with one of the projects :-) That was a loooong time ago though, I wonder where the bison go these days.
    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:39PM (#20373205) Homepage Journal
      The Femilab bison have to be fine breeding studs; travelling at half light speed and crashing into a matter sample in under a millisecond doesn't leave much time for foreplay.
    • Re:Fermilab Bison (Score:5, Informative)

      by shawn(at)fsu ( 447153 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:47PM (#20373307) Homepage
      Actually that was on page 4
      6800 acres of land provide lots of opportunity to preserve vegetation and wildlife. Arriving at Fermilab through its signature gate in fact feels much more like arriving at a park rather than a high-energy research site. Vegetation is brought back to its original prairie state; wildlife includes 277 bird species, 54 species of butterflies, about 18,000 Canada geese during migration cycles, more than 350 deers - and 45 bisons.

      • Should not reply to self but oh well. I might come off to harsh, they did mention the bison but not to the level you did. Interesting to know. This article also had a few spelling errors that even I noticed which is saying a lot.
      • by Genda ( 560240 )


        ... and I thought Bisons were particles having the mixed properties of Pions an Bosons!!!

        - It's like trying to discover how our government work by colliding the House and Senate at nearly the speed of light, and see what kind of laws are created...
    • by apsmith ( 17989 ) * on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:52PM (#20373365) Homepage
      The bison are indeed mentioned in the article.

      Some things it doesn't mention though, that I recall from my brief summer there 20+ years back:

      * the radioactive groundhogs. Every national lab I've been to seemed to have a colony of groundhogs, I guess they like the security.... At Fermilab, there was a burrow in the middle of a mile-long berm of dirt that acted as a beam dump to generate neutrinos (only neutrinos make it through that much matter without being stopped).

      * Wilson's artworks - I assume they're still around. Robert Wilson was the instigator of the lab, and got it built on time and under budget. He was also a bit of a sculptor, and a number of his artworks were on the grounds around the administration building. In fact I think he designed the rather unique admin building too.

      * the annual "race around the ring" - actually, maybe that's gone away since Leon Lederman's no longer the lab director. It was quite a challenge when I was there though; you can imagine a bunch of desk physicists and engineers trying to make it around the 3+ miles of the ring road in a reasonable amount of time...
      • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Monday August 27, 2007 @01:48PM (#20374021) Homepage
        Wilson's artworks - I assume they're still around.

        They are. The power poles shaped like the Pi symbol are being replaced this summer, they even got the city of Batavia to pay for it.

        One bit of entertaining lore (I can't confirm it's true but I've heard it from several lab veterans) about the art around the lab is the "symmetry" sculpture at the lab's west gate. It's a large arch with three limbs that towers over the roadway, and a visitor paying attention may notice the west-facing (public) side is painted completely black, and the east (lab) side is orange. The reason? Originally the sculpture was entirely orange. Stayed that way for almost 20 years. Eventually locals decided it was an eyesore, orange hasn't been a popular color since the 70's and I guess people got tired of it. So the lab painted the outside flat black to keep the peace with the community.

        Orange and blue is still pretty common around the lab, the CDF detector building even got a fresh coat of paint last year. It is pretty ugly, but it's been that way for decades and it would suck to change it now.
    • by martyb ( 196687 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @01:02PM (#20373477)

      However, while Argonne merely allows the deer to roam freely on its land, Fermilab Bison are actively cultivated by the lab, creating some really fine breeding studs, and acting as a sustainable way of preserving one aspect of the natural "Prairie" that is part of North American history.

      And let me guess... they named the first calf a "Higgs Bison"? <grin>

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Octopus ( 19153 )
      I grew up near the edge of Fermilab, so did most of my family. Pretty easy for kids to take a bike ride straight in there. Lots of weird anomoly rumors, too, which is natural.

      I think security clamped down suddenly after 9/11.

      If anyone's interested in some of Fermilab's history and culture, check out Leon Lederman's "The God Particle".
  • They're working on getting the International Linear Collider [] to be based between them and Argonne National Laboratory, a few miles away. Of course, that will probably just be a really deep, really long tunnel, unless you're into the engineering of these things.
    • I had a professor that was not too optimistic about new projects like this in particle physics. He said something several thousand PhD particle physicists are going to be out of work when Fermilab shuts down, and none of the proposals for new research that would keep them employed in the field were having much luck. I believe he said Americans were already the biggest contingent at CERN as particle physics research fades in the US.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      They're working on getting the International Linear Collider to be based between them and Argonne National Laboratory

      Actually I understood the site was to be a green-field site somewhere between Fermi and DeKalb. However they face a very hard battle getting it based in the US. There is still considerable resentment over the cancellation of the SSC in the international community: they got foreign investment and then the US congress cancelled the project. There is also the significant problem of visas whic
  • From TFA,

    This environment allows the protons and antiprotons to be lifted into another energy dimension:

    So when they have "beam loss" or a "quench" - is that when the portal to Xen opens up? Now where did I leave that crowbar...

  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:47PM (#20373299) Journal

    Controlling a 0.98 tera electron volt (TeV) beam requires quite some precision: Even if just a portion of this beam gets out of control - scientists refer to this event as "beam loss" - a "quench" can happen and damage is done very quickly: While these quenches do not happen very often, a problem for example in the cryogenic system can cause the beam to leave its path. The Tevatron has an automated shutdown function in such a case, but the high energy causes damage even within short time periods: Within 16 ns, one beam burned through about 1.5 m (about 5 feet) of solid steel.
    they built themselves a deathray :)
  • by ExE122 ( 954104 ) * on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:55PM (#20373397) Homepage Journal
    The company I work for is involved with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England just outside of Abingdon. They also have a synchotron facility and gave us a demonstration on how they accelerate particles within a beam by bending it with magnets to form a giant ring (I think the one in RAL is about 3 miles in circumference). They use very complex sensors to study the "scattering" of particles colliding with various materials to determine various characteristics and properties.

    It was a very neat and interesting presentation... Unfortunately, having some of the finer details explained by scientists who live and breath the stuff put it just ever so slightly above my level of understanding (I was lost in the first 30 seconds)... At one point, I could've sworn they just broke out some random Star Trek technobabble just to get a laugh out of me later =P.

    I agree with the author, the article is indeed a very interesting read. And yes, while Tevatron is shutting down, US still leads the world in similar facilities [], including one not too far from Fermilab at Argonne.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gromius ( 677157 )
      Sorry, Rutherford's synchrotron is nothing like the Tevatron. And none of the US's remaining facilities are anything like the Tevatron. The Tevatron is a high energy particle collider (in fact the highest energy one ever built) which has about 1000 times more power than your typical synchrotron. Only the LHC in Europe (which on paper looks 7 times more powerful but in practice is about 3-4 times more powerful) can revival it and its only going to come on line next summer. Put it this way, if RALs synchrotro
  • by bbsguru ( 586178 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @12:58PM (#20373431) Homepage Journal
    From TFM:
    "Most recently, you may have heard of discovery of the "triple scoop" baryon, which contains one quark from each generation of matter."
    That's really all there is about "the work being done there". This is really just a sort of know your neighbors piece for the local pholks who drive by every day.

    So, Captain, where do they keep the Death Ray?
  • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Monday August 27, 2007 @01:24PM (#20373733)
    This is really cool to read and compare to the NY Times profile of the Large Hadron Collider [] at CERN. The feature popped up on Slashdot a few months back. []

    While the LHC is much bigger and has more advanced detectors, the basic ideas are similar. Both take free protons, then send them through multiple accellerators, finally delivering them to the big circular accellerators for the collisions.

    The LHC is 17 miles around, while the Tevatron is only about 4 miles. The LHC will cause collisions at 14 TeV compared to Tevatron's 2 TeV. The LHC is completely underground, while the Tevatron is visible on the surface.

    Once the Tevatron is decommissioned, there will still be the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in New York doing high energy particle physics in the US, and I understand Fermilab and other American institutes will be involved in processing the deluge of data produced by LHC.
    • by crgrace ( 220738 )
      There are others besides the RHIC. The Beavatron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and of course the Stanford Linear Accelerator are still under operation. The Stanford Linear Accelerator has the B-Factory as one of its targets. The B-factory is an extremely advanced detector (in high energy Meson regime particles) and is the center of the BaBar project.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bockelboy ( 824282 )

      I understand Fermilab and other American institutes will be involved in processing the deluge of data produced by LHC.

      I would say so! FNAL (plus 7 other universities) will probably have around 50% of the processing capacity for the CMS project (one of the LHC detectors).

      Just because the detector isn't physically located at FNAL doesn't mean their contribution isn't significant. The whole design for grid-computing is that a physicist can be just as effective on their laptop in Starbucks as sitting ne

  • Not so cool (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I work at Fermilab and life here only looks good on outside. Last dozen years the lab has been really struggling with deciding what to do after the Tevatron shutdown. The lab's managemen are bunch of bureaucrats who, in my opinion, lack passion for physics and have no great (or even good) ideas for the future. The lab also struggles with finding the new and capable people. There are large number of people at the lab who have been around for so long that at some point they just got tired of doing physics. Fo
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah. I've heard similar statements from my friends that have interned there over the summer. But, man its still quite an awesome place to visit. That really was my dream to work there, when I was in grade school. It still inspires that sense of awe. I wonder if they'd let me just live there and herd the buffalo, or at least ride one to work. I must go again soon, so I can look out from the tower's observation deck and stare at the magnificent dirt circle.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I also work at Fermilab in the sense that I work on an experiment there, but am university-based. Although the lab management is not perfect, the issue of looking towards the future is actually a much broader issue for the high-energy physics (HEP) community. All of the US HEP accelerators will be shutdown by 2010, and the focus will be on the LHC for the next decade. Given the timescale and resources it takes to build these accelerators we really should be in final stages of design with a funding plan i
  • So why do we need to electrify and accelerate pairs of sandals? Do they make you shockingly fast at running with them on?

    (Yes, I know: TeV = Terra electron Volt)

    Start your groaning about a lame joke now...

  • The largest earth-bound collider would be one that circles earth.

    Would anyone care to speculate on what kinds of energy levels, and what phenomena, we could investigate with a 7926 mile diameter collider?
  • Poorly Written (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Monday August 27, 2007 @03:16PM (#20375005) Homepage
    "A random blogger regurgitates PR stuff, drools over PR stuff, and can't be bothered to Google, spellcheck, or edit his writings". Would be an apt description of TFA.
    I long for the day when Slashdot linked to substantial material, rather than fanboi crap.
  • The Tevatron is really what Fermilab is known for today. From the outside, it is a gigantic ring visible through a circular hill with a length of 4 miles and a radius of one mile.
    Err.. 1 mile radius and 4 miles circumference? Wow, time/space is seriously deformed by all those high energy impacts!

  • There was going to be a multi billion dollar collider in Texas(I think). It was shut down half way through production, and pissed off my physics teacher quite well.
  • by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <samwyse&gmail,com> on Monday August 27, 2007 @04:27PM (#20375859) Homepage Journal

    My college roommate's older brother was a physicist who worked at Fermilab. We got a tour of the place while it was at the top of its game. (He later moved to CERN; it was a bit far to visit but he had interesting stories to make up for it. On a related note, my sister married a guy who worked at Argonne National Laboratory, so I got a VIP tour there, as well.)

    Much later, during the dot-com collapse, I found myself on a job interview at Fermilab. They built a lot of custom Linux boxes and wrote a lot of software to run on them. It looked like an environment similar to Google today, with all the processing power you could imagine to throw at personal projects. At the time, you could easily download just about everything they wrote, but a lot of that disappeared after 9/11. A few people whom I trust warned that taking a government job would be a career killer for me, but the job I wound up taking paid even less. (Of course, my current job pays much better, so I guess that things even out.) Ultimately, I decided against moving my family 300 miles, but I still sometimes wish I'd taken the job.

  • With a atomic orbit logo below it. They have the most memorable city motto and logo I have
    ever seen.

  • When we have our TV and donuts.. mmmm donuts...

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.