At the Edge of Science, God, and Ego
By Jocelyn Geboy in News on Sep 5, 2007 7:35PM
Fermilab — home to a herd of American Bison; strange, little, colored homes*; and the Tevatron. Fermilab currently is the world's foremost authority on all things atomic. The Tevatron is currently the world's highest energy collider, and it's being used in the race to find the Higgs boson, considered by some to be the "god particle." It's a piece of the Unified Theory puzzle that continues to elude scientists and whose verfiied existence, according to Wikipedia, "would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory which seeks to unify the four fundamental forces: Electromagnetism, Strong Force, Weak Force, and Gravity."
However, Fermilab is poised to be bounced back as of 2008, when the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will have its Large Hadron Collider up and running. At full capacity, it will be seven times as fast as Fermilab's Tevatron. Fermilab Director Pier Oddone commented, "For us it's a painful experience. We are at the center of the physics universe right now. And when the LHC opens we won't be."
We're kind of bummed. Even though our trips to Fermilab have been mere drive throughs, and we have always felt like we were on some secret spy mission and bound to be arrested at any moment, we liked the idea that somewhere in the United States — in Northern Illinois, to boot — there was important work being done in the field of quantum physics. We don't understand much of it, but we like the idea that at the smallest level of energy/matter, there is a place where mystery still exists in the realm of the scientific, and that while the scientists are always searching for more knowledge, they are somewhat content to cop to the "We don't know" theories, too.
Wikipedia says that Fermilab is scheduled to be a potential site for the International Linear Collider to be finished in 2010. Fermilab's entry indicates that would be a great boon to the facility. We figure that will be especially true since the Tevatron will be rendered obsolete. Good luck, Fermilab!
*The crayon colored homes are the remaining vestiges of the community of Weston, Ill. They voted themselves out of existence in 1966 to make way for Fermilab.
Photo courtesy of Fermilab.