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  • Shelomo Alfassa's Science Blog...

The Little-known Hadron Collider in a Pine Forest

Less than 90 minutes from New York City is one of the most amazing facilities ever constructed in the United States—a location where some of man’s greatest experiments take place. It is the 'Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider' (RHIC), a Hadron Collider--the second-highest-energy collider after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland.

This particle physics grand masterpiece is a 360 degree tunnel circling 2.4 miles (3.9 km) long and is visible from space. It's purpose is to move tiny physical particles such as protons or ions to near the speed of light with the end of goal of slamming them into one another and creating "new" particles which can only be observed through use of such technology. The machine consists of a ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures that boost the energy of the particles along the way. [Images]

RHIC is located on a very large facility known as the Brookhaven National Lab, and it is operated by the US Department of Energy who conducts many science experiments there including nuclear and high-energy physics, physics and chemistry of materials, environmental and climate research, nanomaterials, energy research, structural biology and accelerator physics. The facility was first conceived in the 1970s and built in the 1990s. RHIC start operating around 2010 and operates most of the year. The facility is in the middle of a pine forest, and resembles a military base.

Some 2,700 staff work at Brookhaven National Lab, with an annual budget of half a billion dollars. Brookhaven has won a Nobel Prize in Physics (for detecting solar neutrinos), it has contributed to the development of L-Dopa (for Alzheimer treatment), considered one of the most advanced achievements in medicine in the 20th century. The original sponsors of the Brookhaven facility include Columbia University, Harvard, John Hopkins, Yale, MIT and University of Pennsylvania.

The land the facility was built upon has belonged to the federal government since at least 1916, and was used as a WWI troop facility where men were staged prior to being placed on the Long Island Rail Road bound for ships in New York City that would take them to France and other places.

The area was cleared of trees and swampy conditions by men and steam powered equipment, it was a large facility on over 7,500 acres. Known as Camp Upton, some 300,000 men were there between 1917-1921 for the 77th Division. The area and the Army Camp was named after Emory Upton (1839 – 1881), a United States Army General prominent for his role in leading infantry to attack entrenched positions successfully at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House during the Civil War. During WWII, the facility was used to intern American citizens of Japanese descent.

This geographic location is the former terminal moraine of one of the many enormous continental ice sheets, some over a mile thick (high) which existed over what is today New York State for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. If you dig down several feet, you'll observe the "sugar sand" which makes up a large thickness of Long Island. The area is covered in pine trees, one of the oldest types of trees on Earth, and trees that existed prior to insects or flowers existing.


No trespassing sign from the US Dept. of Energy

Beautiful ancient Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) in Suffolk County, New York


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