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Feature

How a model of Wilson Hall made it on local TV

From left: Paul Rubinov, David Huffman and Michael Utes created the 3-D-printed model of Wilson Hall that now lives on the set of Chicago Tonight. Photo: Ashley Black, OC

Wilson Hall dominates the skyline of Fermilab's site, and it now has a place in Chicago as well. A 3-D-printed version of the high-rise sits on the bookshelf on the set of the television program Chicago Tonight alongside other signature Chicago memorabilia.

The model made its debut on Monday, July 20, along with a 3-D-printed model of the CMS detector, one of the four main detectors gathering data at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The idea to include the icons came to Fermilab scientist Don Lincoln when he visited WTTW in December and spoke with one of the cameramen.

"He looked at the wall of artifacts behind the set and said something along the lines of, 'You know … we don't have any science stuff up there.' And that got me to thinking," Lincoln said.

Lincoln commissioned James Wetzel from the University of Iowa to make a 3-D-printed model of the CMS detector earlier this year. Later, Lincoln and a team consisting of David Huffman, Paul Rubinov and Michael Utes from Fermilab were inspired to do the same for Wilson Hall, perhaps the most recognizable structure at the laboratory.

The basic concept of a 3-D printer is simple: You design something on a computer, transform it into a file the printer can read and upload it. In this case, Huffman used original electronic drawings of Fermilab's floor plans and converted them to 3-D in AutoCAD.

"The hard part was deciding what parts of the floor plan drawing to ignore, because we were just making the shell of Wilson Hall," Huffman said. Each floor was printed separately to avoid potential large printing errors.

"You sometimes have to babysit the older printers," Utes explained.

Utes, Rubinov and Huffman took turns watching over the printer, which generated one to two floors per day throughout the two-week-long process. Each floor took about four hours to print.

The team glued together the completed floors with plastic pipe glue before the model, about the size of a coffee can, was sent to its new home in the Chicago television studio.

As for how long Wilson Hall might represent the lab on the shelf, Lincoln is optimistic.

"I think it's going to be up for the long haul," he said.

Ashley Black

3-D models of the CMS detector and Wilson Hall can now be seen on WTTW's Chicago Tonight. Go to minute 46 of the July 20 episode to see the models.
Photos of the Day

Double-crested cormorants

A trio of double-crested cormorants in front of Wilson Hall gaze into the distance. Photo: Bridget Scerini, TD
They settle on a branch at Bullrush Pond. Photo: Bridget Scerini, TD
In the News

Viewpoint: Sky survey casts light on the dark universe

From Physics, July 29, 2015

If you talked to any cosmologist today, you would most likely witness two conflicting emotions. The first is quite self-congratulatory as the community has collectively nailed down the precise quantities of each component in the Universe, using multiple independent observations. The second is one of panic, when they admit that the major dark constituents of the Universe that are inferred to exist remain elusive. The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is one of three optical imaging surveys in this decade's hot competition to uncover the true nature of the dark side of our Universe.

Read more

Tip of the Week: Safety

Summer dangers at the laboratory

Driving while using your cell phone on Fermilab grounds is a traffic violation. It's especially dangerous when driving near construction zones. Don't let yourself be distracted while driving.

Building construction is prevalent at the laboratory this summer, and it can pose a danger for those on the road. It is particularly important to slow down and pay close attention while driving. Motorists, bikers and pedestrians must pay attention to warning signs, detour signs and flaggers. Dangers still exist in work zones even if workers are not present.

Personnel may not drive any motor vehicle on the Fermilab site while using a cell phone. This is a Fermilab moving traffic violation, and you can be cited by Fermilab Security if found in violation of the policy.

Remember these tips for work zone safety:

  • Slow down.
  • Observe posted construction zone speed limits.
  • Don't follow too closely.
  • Be patient.
  • Turn on headlights.

For more information, visit the traffic safety Web page.

With construction season comes bees, wasps, ticks and mosquitoes. Alertness and awareness is the key to avoiding the dangers of bee and wasp stings. Always watch where you place your hands, and keep away from heavily perfumed soaps, laundry detergents and additives, as well as colognes, hair products, lotions, oils and flowery deodorants. These strongly scented products attract bees and wasps.

Be careful when eating fruits and sugary food outside. Cover all food and drinks. Bees and wasps are notorious for crawling into drink cans unnoticed.

If you do get stung by a bee, scrape the stinger off with a fingernail or other straight edge. Do not remove a bee stinger with tweezers or by squeezing it between two fingers as this will squeeze the venom into the skin. Wash the affected area with soap and water. Ice can reduce the swelling of a bee sting. Resist the urge to scratch it as doing so will irritate the skin and prolong your discomfort.

Alertness and awareness as you go about your day-to-day activities will help ensure your summer fun isn't spoiled.

J.B. Dawson

In Brief

Lecture Committee seeks candidates for the 2015 Physics Slam

Want to slam on the Ramsey Auditorium stage? Visit the 2015 Physics Slam nomination Web page for details on how to apply.

The Fermilab Lecture Committee is seeking applicants for this year's Physics Slam, scheduled for Nov. 20. The Physics Slam — one of the most popular events organized by the Fermilab Arts and Lecture Series — pits five contestants against one another. Each is given 10 minutes and complete creative freedom to make a research area as interesting and exciting as possible.

If you would like to be considered for the Physics Slam, please visit the nomination Web page and follow the instructions there.

You'll need to submit a short video of yourself talking about your topic by the end of the day on Monday, Aug. 17. The Lecture Committee will select from among the applicants. If you have questions, please email physicsslam@fnal.gov. Thank you, and good luck!

In the News

Cosmic convergence

From Science, July 31, 2015

A year and half ago, physicists working with one of the world's odder scientific instruments scored a bittersweet breakthrough. The massive IceCube particle detector — a 3D array of 5160 light sensors buried kilometers deep in ice at the South Pole — spotted ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos from beyond our galaxy (Science, 22 November 2013, p. 920). Researchers had previously detected lower energy neutrinos gushing from the sun and raining down from particle interactions in the atmosphere. But — except for a burp from a nearby supernova explosion in 1987 — neutrinos from the far reaches of the cosmos had eluded capture.

The discovery is Nobel-caliber stuff, some physicists say, but it also sounded a cautionary note. IceCube saw only about a dozen cosmic neutrinos per year. At that meager rate, the $279 million detector might never spot enough of them to work as advertised: as a neutrino telescope that could open up a whole new view of the heavens.

Read more