Hadron Collider going after the primordial fire

Fermilab scientists in Illinois hold pajama party celebrating activation of collider near Geneva

I love this story. I had tears in my eyes before I had barely begun reading it, and they're still there as I'm typing this. Very good journalism, and the photos are absolutely wonderful.

An ocean away from Geneva, the new [Hadron] collider's activation was watched with rueful excitement here at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, which has had the reigning particle collider.

Several dozen physicists, students and onlookers, and three local mayors gathered overnight to watch the dawn of a new high-energy physics. They applauded each milestone as the scientists methodically steered the protons on their course at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Many of them, including the lab's director, Pier Oddone, were wearing pajamas or bathrobes or even nightcaps bearing Fermilab "pajama party" patches on them.

Outside, a half moon was hanging low in a cloudy sky, a reminder that the universe was beautiful and mysterious and that another small step into that mystery was about to be taken.

I've only read the hard copy story so far, and since I'm listening to a dramatic, late (wartime) symphony by Nikolai Myaskovsky right now, I'll wait to watch the video on the NYTimes site.

entrance to the underground Cern Laboratory near Geneva

The wooden 2002 Palais de l'Equilibre [architect Hervé Dessimoz, construction engineer Thomas Büchi], the icon of the 2002 Swiss National Exhibition, performs as the public face of the laboratory. It's now been dubbed, "Globe de l'Innovation", but I prefer the sound and the idea of the original name. Its shape and its current placement are surely a tribute to Étienne-Louis Boullée's theoretical, monumental designs, in particular his "Cénotaphe a Newton" (1784). For a discussion of the architecture of the underground lab itself, see this Charles Jencks essay, "Ultimate architecture: Cern's partical detector".

[first image by Peter Wynn Thompson from the NYTimes, the second by Anja Niedringhaus from Associated Press via NYTimes]