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Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Brookhaven National Laboratory

April 14, 2014 - 11:45am

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The Solenoidal Tracker at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) is a detector which specializes in tracking the thousands of particles produced by each ion collision at RHIC. Weighing 1,200 tons and as large as a house, STAR is a massive detector. It is used to search for signatures of the form of matter that RHIC was designed to create: the quark-gluon plasma. It is also used to investigate the behavior of matter at high energy densities by making measurements over a large area. | Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Lab.

The Solenoidal Tracker at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) is a detector which specializes in tracking the thousands of particles produced by each ion collision at RHIC. Weighing 1,200 tons and as large as a house, STAR is a massive detector. It is used to search for signatures of the form of matter that RHIC was designed to create: the quark-gluon plasma. It is also used to investigate the behavior of matter at high energy densities by making measurements over a large area. | Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Lab.

This article is part of the Energy.gov series highlighting the “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” Be sure to check back for more entries soon.

Founded on the former site of the U.S. Army’s Camp Upton in New York in 1947, the Energy Department's Brookhaven National Laboratory was originally created out of a post-war desire to explore the peaceful applications of atomic energy. Over the years, its mission has grown to encompass basic and applied research on many frontiers of science -- from nuclear physics to nano-science and beyond.

10. In 1968, Brookhaven researchers Gordon Danby and James Powell patented Maglev, the principle of superfast magnetically-levitated transportation.

9. In 1958, Brookhaven scientists built one of the first video games ever created, Tennis for Two, to entertain visitors at the Lab's annual visitors' day. Two people played the electronic tennis game with separate controllers that connected to an analog computer and used an oscilloscope, a type of electronic test instrument, as a screen.

8. Brookhaven is home to the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, which studies the effects of space radiation on biological and physical systems. Using beams of heavy ions provided by the Lab's Booster Accelerator to simulate space radiation, research at the Space Radiation Laboratory will help scientists develop methods and materials that reduce the risks for human beings exposed to ionizing radiation on future long-term space missions.

7. Brookhaven researchers have discovered many new subatomic particles, including: the muon neutrino, the K meson, the omega-minus particle, the charmed baryon, neutral and negative sigma baryons, the phi vector meson, the antiparticles Xi-minus and Xi-zero, and the J/psi particle, whose discovery won Samuel C. C. Ting a share of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics.

6. The Cosmotron, a particle accelerator in operation at Brookhaven from 1952-1966, was the first accelerator in the world to send particles to energies in the billion electron volt, or GeV, energy range. The Cosmotron was also the first synchrotron, or time dependent particle accelerator, to provide an external beam of particles for experimentation outside the accelerator itself.

5. Developed at Brookhaven in the 1960s, Levodopa, or “L-dopa,” a medicine that the brain converts to dopamine, is still the gold standard for treating Parkinson’s disease.

4. Physicists using Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a type of particle accelerator, discovered a perfect liquid made entirely of quarks and gluons in 2005. This quark-gluon plasma is a type of matter thought by scientists to have existed microseconds after the Big Bang.

3. Brookhaven scientists were the first to chemically synthesize a human protein -- insulin. This work paved the way for later production of human insulin, which replaced animal insulin in the treatment of diabetes.

2. The High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) was a small research reactor that operated at Brookhaven from 1965 through 1996 and provided a source of neutrons for multidisciplinary scientific research. The structure of the "protein factory" of the cell, the 16-part ribosome, was first revealed at the HFBR, as was the structure of myelin, the protein that coats nerve cells. In a series of experimental milestones, scientists using the HFBR determined the structures of the 23 amino acids that make up every protein in every cell in living things.

1. More than 100 scientists at Brookhaven Lab were involved in designing, building and running the experiments that discovered the Higgs boson particle in collisions of protons at Europe's Large Hadron Collider in 2012. In 2013, theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert received the Nobel Prize in physics for their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.

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