Say you have a 15 ton, 50-foot-wide electromagnet kicking around. And say a lab halfway across the country needs it. Scientists at Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island are facing down the logistics of that very move, reports the AP, a 3,200-mile trek to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. "When we first started thinking about this, we all thought it wouldn't be possible," says a physicist. "But if you have a big problem, you find good people who can fix the problem. That's physics."
The move is expected to cost $3 million and take five weeks. The magnet itself, which was the world's largest when it was built in the 1990s, is a logistical nightmare: It can't be dismantled or bent more than an 1/8th of an inch without being ruined. The magnet will be trucked about 8 miles to the Atlantic, where it will be loaded on a barge and head down the East Coast and up the Mississippi, Illinois, and Des Plaines rivers. Two more days on a truck will get it to Fermilab, where it's going to be used to study subatomic particles called muons, which live 2.2 millionths of a second. You can follow the move, which begins next Saturday, here. (Read more Fermilab stories.)