October 13, 2019

What Happens When You Put a Ferret in a Particle Accelerator?

“IN FEBRUARY 1971, PHYSICISTS AT the National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, began testing the biggest machine in the world: a ring-shaped, 200-billion-electron-volt (BeV) proton synchrotron particle accelerator. The stakes were high. NAL director Bob Wilson had told the U.S. Department of Energy that he could get it running within five years for $250 million, and they were four years in. They soon ran into a perplexing problem: Magnets that were essential to its operation kept failing.

The low-tech solution proposed for this high-tech trouble? A ferret named Felicia.

But first, a bit of background. The NAL—today known as Fermilab, after the physicist Enrico Fermi—has a chain of accelerators: a linear accelerator (linac), a booster, a recycler ring, and a main injector ring. The linac provides the proton beam and the initial jolt of energy; the booster accelerates it; the recycler “batches it” into groups of protons for a more intense beam; and the main injector ring zips the beam around tens of thousands of times to nearly the speed of light. The particles are then sent to various testing facilities, where they’re smashed together or against a fixed target. The resulting collision, observed by a particle detector, reveals their interiors and sometimes creates exotic particles. These are the most fundamental elements of the universe.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Kurds have been staunch allies in America's struggle against ISIS. Without them, America would have paid a far steeper price in blood and treasure to defeat the brutal outfit. That's why President Trump's move to pull U.S. troops out of..."

"For the first time since President Richard Nixon refused to turn over the White House tapes, the United States is facing a genuine constitutional crisis. To be sure, Donald Trump had already created a crisis in the presidency by abusing the..."

"Every October for the past five years, Fat Bear Week has showcased some of the healthiest, hungriest, and chonkiest bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve, a four-million-acre expanse of wilderness in southern Alaska..."

"I sat on my childhood bed, surrounded by 52-year-old stuffed animals, with a smartphone lodged between my ear and shoulder. My father had died unexpectedly the day before, and I was jotting down notes as my rabbi back in Ohio described various..."

"In August, it was SoulCycle and Equinox. The month prior, Home Depot. Back in 2017, L.L.Bean. These are only a few of the companies to ignite the collective ire of progressive consumers over corporate ties to Trump. In the case of the boutique..."

"Movies like Gemini Man are usually ideal airplane viewing. Take a formulaic plot about spies and cloning, then add dialogue so predictable that getting interrupted by pilots’ announcements and turbulence and your seatmate’s need to get up and..."

"It’s still unclear whether Israel’s next election will be in four years or four months. But either way, if the center-right wants a better outcome, it needs to learn the lessons of September’s election. So here are two: First, while center-right..."

"Smart homes, bountiful oceans and casual sexism: the future as envisaged from 1967 ‘Yes, life will be richer, easier, healthier as space-age dreams come true.’ In 1967, the Ford Motor Company (then known as Philco-Ford) released the short film..."