What takes a $3 million month-long journey via trucks and barges to go 3,200 miles from New York to Chicago?
None other than a gigantic 50-foot-wide electromagnet weighing over 15 tons.
The huge device finally arrived early Friday morning at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in suburban Chicago after a slow, lengthy land-and-sea trip from its former home at Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, NBCNews.com reported.
The magnet began its epic journey late June via barge from Long Island, where it floated south along the Atlantic coast, around Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi River, where tugboats pushed it up into the mouth of the river to travel to Chicago. Just south of its final destination, the magnet was brought off the barge and loaded onto a specially made truck.
Creeping along at 5-15 mph, the truck arrived at Fermilab early this morning. A public open house is planned tonight to celebrate the magnet’s arrival, with magnetic experiments and lessons for children, according to the AP report.
“The whole thing went as smoothly as we could have wanted it too,” Fermilab spokesman Andre Salles said.
Complicating the move was the fact that the magnet couldn’t be twisted more than an eighth of an inch without irreparably damaging the magnet’s inner wiring, according to the NBC News report. Building a similar magnet at Fermilab would cost about $30 million, so the $3 million cost to transport the magnet from New York was a bargain.
The magnet’s odyssey attracted legions of followers along its route, the Associated Press reported. Crowds would gather, snapping cellphone photos, whenever the magnet and its crew were spotted in parking lots for breaks.
Followers could track the magnet’s progress via the Twitter hashtag #bigmove and a “Big Move” page on the Fermilab Web site.
A hand-me-down from Brookhaven, the magnet will be used in a Fermilab experiment called Muon g-2, which will study muons, which are subatomic particles with a life of only 2.2 millionths of a second. The magnet will be used to capture these particles for analysis.
From the Fermilab site:
Muon g-2 (pronounced gee minus two) will use Fermilab’s powerful accelerators to explore the interactions of short-lived particles known as muons with a strong magnetic field in “empty” space.
Scientists know that even in a vacuum, space is never empty. Instead, it is filled with an invisible sea of virtual particles that—in accordance with the laws of quantum physics—pop in and out of existence for incredibly short moments of time. Scientists can test the presence and nature of these virtual particles with particle beams traveling in a magnetic field.
Although the magnet has a new home, it won’t be operational until next year because of building construction. The Muon g-2 experiment is expected to start in 2016.