Editorial: Fermilab and the science that matters
The suburbs tend to be the subject of several false stereotypes -- boring, superficial, unsophisticated, conservative, white, ticky tacky houses like little boxes in a row.
Those of us who live here understand how inaccurate those generalizations are and how vibrant this region is. But even we fail to fully appreciate some of the jewels in our midst.
For instance: Fermilab, the jewel of discovery on 6,800 acres at the edge of Batavia. Its reach does not just extend across the country or even just around the globe, but into the heavens and across the stars.
The particle physics and accelerator laboratory this year celebrates its 55th anniversary, and we celebrate it, too. The whole planet should.
What's the point of it? Fermilab provides a good summary of the answer at its website, www.fnal.gov:
"What are we made of? How did the universe begin? What secrets do the smallest, most elemental particles of matter hold, and how can they help us understand the intricacies of space and time?
"Since 1967, Fermilab has worked to answer these and other fundamental questions and enhance our understanding of everything we see around us. As the United States' premier particle physics laboratory, we do science that matters. We also probe the farthest reaches of the universe, seeking out the nature of dark matter and dark energy."
Last year, Fermilab scientists found evidence that the Standard Model, long the theoretical basis of particle physics, may fail to fully explain how the universe works.
This was a landmark discovery.
Experiments at the lab uncovered fundamental particles called muons behaving in a way that is not predicted by that theory. The finding suggested that muons could be interacting with forces that have yet to be explained.
Fermilab also will play a key role in powering high-energy neutrino beams for 800 miles from Fermilab to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment in South Dakota.
Scientists at the facilities will use neutrinos to try to answer some of the greatest unanswered questions about how the cosmos works. Mainly, what are the as-yet unknown laws that rule the things that we don't see?
Late last year, the U.S. Department of Energy approved Fermilab's participation in work to upgrade a European collider that will enable physicists to study the Higgs boson and other particles in greater detail.
Fermilab works with collaborators in more than 50 other countries to conduct some of the most fascinating science of our time.
All of us in the suburbs can be rightly proud that the renowned laboratory is in our backyard.