The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

July 27, 2013

Mysterious magnet gets rock-star status

(Continued)

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. —

Brookhaven scientists no longer had a need for the electromagnet, and shipping it to the Midwest for about $3 million was cheaper than the alternative. Constructing an entirely new electromagnet could have cost as much as $30 million, Polly estimated.

In any case, at least they didn’t have to pay tolls on the parts of the journey that took it over land.

“We’ve been assured that we don’t have to pay tolls, but we’re waiting to see if we get the violation notice in the mail. It’d be pretty hard to dispute,” said Fermilab spokesman Andre Salles, who was among the magnet’s traveling companions for about 10 days of the trip.

Moving the thing, however, was in some ways as complicated and as delicate a maneuver as building it. It could not be taken apart or twisted more than about an eighth of an inch without irreparably damaging the coils, Polly said.

It started its trip in late June, floating by barge down the East Coast into the Gulf of Mexico — where it outran a tropical depression — then up the Mississippi River, where it was photographed drifting past St. Louis’ arch on its way into Illinois.

“We had to hurry up and get going through the Gulf of Mexico and really have the tugboat pour it on,” Terry Emmert Jr., vice president of Emmert International, said while recalling the race to avoid the storm. His company moved the magnet across the country.

Earlier in the journey, it spent almost a week docked in Norfolk, Va., because of bad weather, but the team traveling with it found a welcome diversion.

“The port happened to be across the street from a minor league baseball stadium so the barge crew spent the whole week there,” Salles said.

Just south of Chicago, it was hauled out of the water and strapped onto a specially made 16-axel flatbed truck for its final leg. It traveled at a mere 5 to 15 mph, with a behemoth bumper sticker informing puzzled onlookers that it was “Driving discovery in particle physics.”

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