Silk taffeta, flowing gowns, sheaths, and…a lab coat? It may sound like a fashion faux pas, but these were the makings of NYC-based designer Shin Choi‘s spring 2000 collection.

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At $378, this lab coat should probably be saved for the most special occasions

That season’s catalogue, which recently ended up on my desk after a coworker’s office-cleaning session, featured a fitting backdrop: intriguing scientific scenes at Brookhaven Lab. Alongside the slender model stands bulbous cryogen tanks, an abandoned bubble chamber, and widgets and gadgets galore.

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This shot was taken next to a set of helium tanks used for Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). To make RHIC’s magnets carry electricity without resistance, they are cooled by liquid helium to just a few degrees warmer than absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius).

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A cryogenic refrigerator stored near Brookhaven’s former Power Transmission Project, which began in the 1970s to develop a viable and cost-effective means of transmitting large amounts of electrical power underground. This project laid the groundwork for Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) installation of the world’s first high-temperature superconductor power transmission cable system in Holbrook, NY, in 2008.

Art director Gaemer Gutierrez scouted Brookhaven as a possible setting for the photo shoot after talking with his friend and BNL physicist Ofer Rind.

“It was perfect,” Gutierrez said in The Bulletin story (Brookhaven’s employee newspaper) written after the shoot. “Shin’s fashion is very simple and functional, almost sculptural. For me, looking at Brookhaven is sort of the same thing: functional and rational — and beautiful without trying to be beautiful.”

I would guess that most of us here take that beauty for granted (or can’t see it at all). But I see it when looking through these photos, even with fashions that are now a decade old. How about you?

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RHIC’s helium piping and storage tanks. In all, RHIC contains 25 tons of helium — enough to fill all of the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade for the next 400 years. Alternate caption: Oooops!

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These shots were taken outside of the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron‘s (AGS) g-2 experiment. Built in the late 1950s, the AGS was the highest-energy accelerators of its time, and continues to serve as the injector for RHIC. The g-2 experiment, which was housed by the AGS from the late 90s through the mid 2000s, investigated how the spin of a muon is affected as it moves through a magnetic field — a characteristic that continues to be studied by Brookhaven scientists and others.

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Staying cool: The relief valve kicks out nitrogen gas that’s used for RHIC’s refrigerators at exactly the right moment for this shot.