Nautilus

10 Reasons Why You Can’t Live Without A Particle Accelerator

Physicists use particle accelerators to answer questions of fundamental physics—how our universe was created, why objects have mass, and so on. Accelerators are huge—Fermilab’s Tevatron, near Chicago, is four miles in circumference, while the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva is more than four times that size—and extremely expensive. In some ways, they’re the epitome of the pure research instrument. But if you think these machines have no use outside of research, you’re in for a surprise.

Particle accelerators have been winding their way out of research labs and into industry for decades, and new applications continue to be dreamt up. When federal money for fundamental research dwindled, scientists started to invent new funding methods. Robert Kephart, director of the Illinois Accelerator Research Center (IARC) at Fermilab, partnered with the Illinois State Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to fund science research and applied applications of accelerators. In its 2009 capital bill, the state allocated $20 million toward research at Fermilab, which will be raised the same way states raise money to build roads and bridges—by selling state bonds.

Here are 10 applications of accelerators you

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus10 min read
Talking Is Throwing Fictional Worlds at One Another: A linguist exposes the inner truths about language.
A few years ago, David Adger was in his office at Queen Mary University of London, where he is a professor of linguistics, when the phone rang. It was a British TV company that wanted him to invent a language for monsters with no lips, just big teeth
Nautilus9 min read
When Words Fail: Where our minds go when words let us down.
In Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable, the anonymous narrator laments, “I’m all these words, all these strangers, this dust of words, with no ground for their setting, no sky for their dispersing.” For Beckett’s narrator, words have become unmoore
Nautilus8 min read
Can New Species Evolve From Cancers? Maybe.
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Aggressive cancers can spread so fiercely that they seem less like tissues gone wrong and more like invasive parasites looking to consume and then break free of their host. If a wild