Just Another (Wonder-Filled) Day at Fermilab

There is no typical day here at Fermilab. But here's a look at what I did on one such day last week.

What I love most about working at Fermilab so far is the unpredictability. One day I’ll be working with a large international astrophysics collaboration, the next walking into Geneva City Hall with one of my bosses to talk physics with politicians. No two days have been the same.

Want an example? Here’s what I did last Thursday.

I spent half the day working with a documentary film crew from Canada. They call themselves HELLOHELLO!! (for real), and they’re making a visual travelogue about technology. Fermilab was one of several stops they’re making in the United States, as they collect footage of interesting gadgets and devices.

We certainly have plenty of those here. We took the three-person crew down into the Main Injector (our flagship accelerator ring – more on that later), into the remote control room for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, and into our new test accelerator facility.

But they were most excited by the chance to see one of our massive detectors along the Tevatron ring. It’s called the Collider Detector at Fermilab, or CDF for short, and it’s immense. It’s several stories high, covered in hundreds of colored wires, and it looks like something out of science fiction.

Since it’s no longer in operation, the detector is opened up, so you can see all the amazing apparatus inside. The HELLOHELLO!! crew (I will never get tired of typing that name) spent hours capturing the detector on film – yes, real film, in a 40-year-old movie camera – from every angle. It was a treat watching them work, and I’m looking forward to the finished product.

And then, later that night, I got to accompany our Community Advisory Board on a tour of the Main Injector. The CAB is a group of 18 of the lab’s neighbors, from all walks of life, and they give us advice on lab-related projects and topics important to the local community. We know if the Advisory Board is excited about something we’re doing, then we’re on the right track.

This group had never been down into the Main Injector tunnel – and for that matter, neither had I. The Injector is two miles around, and about 30 feet underground. Its job is to accelerate protons to very nearly the speed of light, before ramming them into targets to produce other particles, like muons and neutrinos.

The Main Injector is undergoing upgrades now to double its beam power, which is why it’s not operating. And that’s why we were allowed to clamber down in it, and see the magnets and machines that make it work. Three of Fermilab’s finest – radiation safety officer Gary Lauten and operators Marty Murphy and Duane Newhart – stayed late to explain everything to our very interested group.

I had a tremendous time as well. Not only did I get to hear all about how one of the most impressive machines I’ve ever seen works, but I got to watch as other people experienced it for the first time too. Fermilab is full of wonders, and it’s always nice to be reminded of that fact.

For more information on our Community Advisory Board, go here. For more on those aforementioned wonders, keep reading this blog on Patch.

Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. You can reach him at asalles@fnal.gov, or at 630-840-6733.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Martha Hanna December 04, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Batavia and the area should be so proud of Fermi, thanks for enlightening us Andre!
Todd December 05, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Did Terri get her scarf back?
Andre Salles December 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Hi, Todd. I have it here in my office. I've emailed her and haven't heard back. Terri, if you're reading this, call me to claim your scarf!


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