In Print: Electromagnet Embarks On Slow Ride, Takes It Easy

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what went on in last week's issue of C&EN.

The precious: One (electromagnetic) ring to rule the roadways. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

New Yorkers aren't known for sharing the road. But they really had no other choice when a 50-foot-wide electromagnet pulled out of Brookhaven National Laboratory in the wee hours of June 23 and slowly trudged along the highway. As C&EN Associate Editor Lauren Wolf reported in last week's Newscripts column, the electromagnet's early-morning joyride was actually only the beginning of its journey. Over the remaining summer months, the electromagnet (which its handlers affectionately call the "ring" on account of the instrument's shape) will travel by land and sea to arrive at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located just outside of Chicago. Once there, the ring will be united with Fermilab's muon beam generator. What are muons, you ask? They're a subatomic particle similar to electrons but heavier. Fermilab scientists want to study the slight movements exhibited by muons as they interact with the ring's electromagentic field because such movements could point to the existence of previously unknown particles and forms of energy. It's an experiment that Brookhaven actually ran years ago, but the beam the lab used wasn't intense enough, and as a result, the findings weren't definitive enough. Pairing the electromagnet up with Fermilab's much stronger muon beam generator should alleviate this problem. First thing is first though: The electromagnet has to overcome a rather difficult journey. "The ring can't twist during transit by more than a degree or so because it might break, which would make this costly move even more costly," notes Lauren, who adds that the move is being coordinated in part by Emmert International, a firm that specializes in the transport of hauling heavy and large objects. Lauren is quick to note, however, that the big move is a labor of love for all involved. "I’m told the ring was built at Brookhaven in the 1990s," says Lauren. "So I imagine that some of these scientists and engineers feel parental pride for the little, er, big guy." If you're feeling parental pride for the electromagnet as well, Fermilab has set up what basically amounts to an online baby monitor to track the ring. Just click here to check out a map tracking the movement of the magnet in real time. And if that's not enough backstage access to the electromagnet's journey, check out this video featuring interviews with some of the ring's movers as well as footage of the electromagnet's road trip across Long Island.

Author: Jeff Huber

Jeff Huber is an associate editor at C&EN. He enjoys finding peculiar news stories that make him laugh and/or tilt his head in a thoughtful manner. This hobby has served him well as a contributor to the Newscripts blog.

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