How To Ship A 17-Ton Magnet

Across the entire country

Travel Advisories

The magnet wouldn’t fit through tollbooths, so an all-highway route wouldn’t work. And if it fell from a helicopter through power lines, it could cause a blackout. Waterways were the only option. The journey began in June: few hurricanes, no frozen rivers.Courtesy Brookhaven National Laboratory

Physicists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois needed a superconducting magnet to study muons, fleeting subatomic particles. Thirty million dollars for a new experimental setup was out of the question, but they found a used one at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. If Fermi scientists could move it, they could have it. The magnet, however, couldn’t be dismantled. And it had to be shipped with the utmost care because a twist of even a couple of millimeters could irreparably damage its internal wiring.

Journey of a Magnet

Michelle Mruk

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Popular Science.