Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory


As the eye sees it: prairie long grass and forb, small ponds here and there, dark groves thick of trees dotting the edges of the sky. A 68hundred-acre Midwestern plain appearing much as it was centuries ago, before the Chicago sprawl, before Europeans resettled the basin that fans out around the southern edge of the great water, Lake Michigan, before vast fields of soy and corn were planted, before the purple loosestrife and garlic mustard invaded the habitats of the native prairie dropseed and shooting stars.

A diverse set of buildings inhabit the landscape, each uniquely odd, displaying imaginative takes on Modern, International, Prairie Farmhouse, Found Object, and more -- and sculpture -- colossal, and stark, swimming in the brown prairie grasses.  The evidence of Humankind is both majestic and surreal here, beneath the grey Midwestern sky.

Welcome to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where nature is observed in the finest detail any human senses know. This is where atoms are smashed, and where, from Annihilation, conceptual frameworks are constructed, that we may better understand the simplest patterns underlying our experience in this universe.

Inquisitivity leads, with Wonder as our guide, we enter the tower that stands sentinel above the rest, Wilson Hall. Like a 15-story Atari logo done in relief. Like a vertical section of a nuclear power cooling tower.

The core of the building is an immense atrium, and from a point at the top of its center vertical axis hangs a
Pendule de Foucault
. But today, the day of our visit, the Pendulum is motionless. Hmm, Strange. This is an anomaly of Earth-stopping proportions, quite literally. The Foucault Pendulum, by definition, unconditionally and constantly swings, mapping out the rotation of the planet in its stroke.

"Why has the pendulum stopped?," we want to know, expecting implications of cosmological consequence.

The answer is vague, "Perhaps it has to do with the construction taking place on the fifteenth floor." We ponder, and we remain silent.  Possibly, the Earth itself has been halted, an engineering neccessity for mysterious construction taking place on the fifteenth floor, because, after all, this is Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. High physics in exhaltion, Time and Motion are only relative.

A grand Public Work such as this is required for the study of the constituents of Matter. Models are tested and paradigms are refined in artificial conditions of the simplest terms however complicated to achieve. The researchers, scientists, and engineers of Fermi orchestrate atomic events in an otherwise empty space, encouraging rare occurrences into relative commonality, magnetically harnessing the quiverings of matter, allowing those to splatter, by smashing them together, releasing Tiamat, the dragon goddess of Chaos, and--like trying to sketch smoke swirling in the wind--they trace her many paths as she flies out, in all directions, to be reabsorbed by the Cosmos, gone as quickly as she had come -- split seconds.

The racetrack of Chaos, the path of fated Matter, is a huge, curled void, encased in narrow channels.  The path begins for two clumps of atomic material at the Cockcroft-Walton accelerator, a shining archetype of mid-20th Century Futuristic-ness, at home in its polished tiled chamber.  From here, our experimental bullets dive into the four-mile Tevatron hoop, buried beneath a perfectly circular river -- a queer site, and all that is visible to our eyes from above the prairie. In the tunnel of the Tevatron, the contents are rolled increasingly faster by the pulsing gradients of quadrupole magnets to a speed a mere 200 miles per hour shy of Light itself. Two miniscule missiles, one of Matter, so familiar to us in its myriad forms, comprising our Reailty, the other is of Anti-Matter, an alien like no other in our Universe.



Anti-Matter cannot share space with Matter, for one is the cancelling harmonic of the other. Anti-Matter is the Great Anomaly, however alternately produced and annihilated in the extreme conditions made possible at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and several other accelerators globally.

Racing through the Tevatron in directions ultimately opposed, destruction is mutually assured. The crash, in a split second of action, sends hurricanes of data, flotsam and jetsam of probabilities. The energy always proves equal the mass amplified by the speed of light squared. We gain a sense of the mathematical purity of the infinitesimally fast moments that followed Time Zero, the Big Bang.

We appreciate the elegance even though the equation is unfinished for us. It may never be finished, but in the quest for its definition is the expression of some uniqueness of our species, always curious of the Cave of Eternal Mysteries, building our Monuments representative of our restless consciousness.