October 14, 2013
Findings At Fermilab
Several years ago, back when I was still in high school, I was given the opportunity to visit Fermilab, located in Batavia, Illinois. It was an incredible experience. Not only were my classmates and I allowed to view the amazing particle accelerator that, as some feared, had the potential to tear our entire world apart (baseless fears, as my classmates and I were assured), but we were also given the opportunity to explore the grounds and have a look at many of the incredible projects that the Fermilab was working on. At the time, my classmates and I were much more excited about going to the Six Flags Great America theme park the following day, but looking back on it, the trip to Fermilab was definitely the more memorable of the experiences.
The Fermilab is involved with many groundbreaking – pun intended – projects in addition to the well-known partial accelerator. They worked with many other groups to uncover the existence of the Higgs boson particle (attempting to understand just how and why matter has mass in the first place), have begun working on a Dark Energy Survey (the goal of which is to discover why our universe is expanding at an accelerated rate and to look into the mystery of dark energy, which is believed to be what is causing this acceleration), and the construction of the most recent NOvA project (in which a collaboration of more than 170 scientist and researchers are working to try and answer the many questions regarding the particles known as neutrinos in an attempt to discover why only matter exists in our universe rather than an equal part of matter and anti-matter). All of these projects hold great potential for discovery, insight into why our universe works the way it does and an understanding into the very model of creation.
Today, the government shutdown has cut funding to the Fermilab facility and severely limited, if not closed down altogether, many of their experiments. Why does this matter? Why should we care about particle physics when we have what seem to be far more pressing socioeconomic issues to deal with as a result of this government shutdown? The researchers of Fermilab can explain it far better than I.
In short, particle physics acts as a doorway, a doorway to the potential of tomorrow. Through the hard work and dedication to discovery that these men and women put forth, numerous scientific advances have been made, and the benefits of such research cannot be measured simply by a dollar amount.
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