NY Lab Housing Big Bang Machine Opens to Public

A Long Island lab that is home to the only operating particle collider in the U.S. is opening its doors to the public.

Brookhaven National Lab, where scientists have earned seven Nobel Prizes, will hold open houses this and next Sunday aimed at giving visitors a rare glimpse into what scientists there are researching and how they're doing it.

"We do research in all areas of science," said Brookhaven science writer Karen McNulty Walsh. "From looking at the basic building blocks of matter and fundamental forces, all the way up to applications like new fuel cell technology for electric cars and nano science looking at ways to build better solar cells for solar energy generation."

There are 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel who work at Brookhaven, and the lab hosts another 4,000 guest investigators each year. 

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, known as the Big Bang machine, is a particle accelerator with a 2.4 mile circumference. Physicists use it to study the form of matter believed to have existed in the universe just after the Big Bang.

"[Its] detectors are huge, like the size of a house," Walsh said. "They have very detailed electronic components and they're very colorful and very exciting looking."

Brookhaven has also been at the forefront of developing medical imaging technologies that help doctors detect and treat cancer.

National Laboratories are federally funded research and development centers that are managed and operated by private sector organizations under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy. 

The centralized system of labs was developed after World War II, with the recognition that new technologies at the time, including the atomic bomb and radar, helped the Allies win the war. 

Admission to Brookhaven National Lab's Summer Sundays is free.  Gates are open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, July 29 and Sunday, August 5.