Friday, May 29, 2009


hello! my name is Grace. I noticed your forum avatar (profile picture?) it's an interesting symbol and i don't think i've seen it before. what does the symbol mean. what does it represent?

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Hi Grace!

The avatar is actually the official logo of the laboratory where I work -- Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. It actually does have a story. The laboratory houses the world's most powerful particle accelerator, or "atom smasher." This machine guides charged particles (protons and antiprotons) around in a circular path, and eventually smashes them into each other to see what happens. The accelerator has about 1000 very powerful electromagnets in it. Some of the electromagnets (about 780 of them) are used simply to steer the beam in its circular path. The other large magnets (about 220 of them) are used to keep the beam of particles "focused" around this path.

I've attached a figure to look at now. The picture shows three different kinds of electromagnets used in accelerators. The first one on the left has four "poles", and is represented by the four curved lines in the avatar. The second one has two poles (up and down) -- the magnetic field lines go from bottom (North pole) to top (South pole) inside the hole in the center. The two horizontal lines in the avatar represent this "dipole" design.

Anyway, Fermilab was the first lab whose accelerator was made out of a combination of dipole-style magnets and quadrupole-style magnets. So that is why it this logo was chosen for the laboratory.

You can visit the Fermilab web site at: where the logo is used quite a lot!


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I just picked you for my physicist for our project and I was interested to hear how you liked working at Fermilab


I enjoy working there very much. It is a very exciting place to be, with people from all over the world coming together to study the physical world. You can get a lot of information about the lab at our web page: . As you might notice, it has a lot of interesting architecture, wildlife, cool "toys" to play with, and great people. It's really a nice life, I'd have to say.

Thanks for your question!

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