Big science is a massively collaborative endeavor. From the initial theoretical puzzles to the brilliant engineers that build on-of-a-kind machinery, experts come together to make discoveries happen. Case in point: We’re moving this 50-foot-wide physics experiment over 3,200 miles of land, sea, and river, starting on Long Island, NY and ending in Batavia, IL. Sometimes understanding the fabric of the universe requires a very technical and very long journey.
The experiment is called Muon g-2 (pronounced gee-minus-two), and will study the properties of muons — tiny subatomic particles that exist for only 2.2 millionths of a second. The core of the experiment is the massive machine built at Brookhaven in the 1990s (assembled above), and a circular electromagnet made of steel and aluminum filled with superconducting cable is its centerpiece. These powerful cables produce a field of 1.45 Tesla, or about 30,000 times magnetic field of our planet.
Back when we ran the experiment, our scientists caught a tantalizing glimpse of physics beyond the Standard Model. But they could only claim a 3-sigma result, which is insufficient to announce a physics-shaking discovery. Clearly, you can’t just leave a question about the nature of the not-so-empty vacuum unanswered.
A muon has an internal magnet, sort of like a miniature bar magnet. It also has an angular momentum, much like a spinning top. One way to study as yet unobserved particles and forces residing in the vacuum is to study the behavior of muons in a magnetic field. The Muon g-2 experiment aims to do just that.
Fermilab can produce a more pure and energetic muon beam than we could back in the day, so they can explore particle puzzles with even greater precision. But we can’t take that giant ring apart, so we have to move the whole thing very, very carefully. This beastly project includes installing a custom-built suspension system, slowly rolling along multiple lanes of highway (watch the animation!), traveling by barge around the tip of Florida, and then floating up the Mississippi River before arriving in Illinois.
We’ve had some great coverage from the media, including local outlets that will see this big ring float or drive by. Our favorite headline has to be this gem from CleanTechnica: Honk If You Love Muons. More updates to come after the move begins this Sunday, June 16!