The Muon g-2 team has completed transport of a 50-foot-wide electromagnet from Long Island to the Chicago suburbs in one piece. The move began on June 22nd at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and concluded this week at Fermilab, a 3,200 mile journey - at least the way they did it.

Why such a torturous route? They couldn't flex it. Or twist it. And it doesn't exactly travel well on highways. 

Muon g-2 (pronounced gee-minus-two) will study the properties of muons, subatomic particles that live only 2.2 millionths of a second, and its results could open the door to new realms of particle physics. Short-lived muons have a strong magnetic field in "empty" space. Even in a vacuum, space is never really empty, it is filled with an invisible sea of virtual particles that —according to quantum physics — pop in and out of existence for incredibly short moments of time. Scientists can test the presence and nature of these virtual particles with particle beams traveling in a magnetic field.

The magnet was built at the DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York in the 1990s, where it was used in a similar experiment. The ring is constructed of aluminum and steel, with superconducting coils inside, and it cannot be taken apart or twisted more than a few millimeters without irreparably damaging those coils.

New home. Hello, Chicago!  Credit: FermiLab

Why go through all the drama? Even the long, slow, scary way it was 1/10th the cost of building a new one. 

So the Muon g-2 team devised a plan that involved loading the ring onto a specially prepared barge and bringing it down the East Coast, around the tip of Florida and up a series of rivers to Illinois.  Then it was attached to a truck built just for the move and driven to Fermilab, traveling over two consecutive nights and using rolling roadblocks to temporarily close sections of the roads.

Let's get to accelerating some protons.

Experiment details: Muon 2-G