Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 27  |  June 2004  |  Number 6
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

26 Years of Quirks & Quarks

by Kurt Riesselmann

From left: Ice cream metaphor for Cold Dark Matter; Alvin "Uncle Sam" Tollestrup; Leon Lederman with an Elvis makeover;
From bosons to bowling, from parking lots to prairie harvests, from scintillators to scientists: For more than 25 years, FERMINEWS has covered all aspects of life at Fermilab, the "home where the buffalo roam and the particles collide all day."

Headlines such as "Bushwackers and Jedi take turns beating each other" (Sept. 18, 1980) indicated early on that Fermilab was no ordinary workplace and FERMINEWS was no ordinary newsletter. Whether reporting on sports events or the I-R 100 awards for technological achievements, the publication reported on all types of world-class achievements at the lab, including "Steve Conlon and David Carlson set a new world record in Fermilab's Main Ring Canoe Race." (Sept. 25, 1980).

FERMINEWS has always celebrated and honored the cultural diversity of the users, employees and friends of Fermilab. The Jan. 3, 1980 cover of the newsletter proclaimed "Happy New Year" in more than 20 languages, perhaps in anticipation of the increasingly international distribution of the publication. (This year, 2,100 of the 14,000 copies of each issue were mailed abroad.)

For the FERMINEWS staff, the top story—pun intended—was the first sighting of the top quark (May 6, 1994). FERMINEWS reporters had the pleasure of mingling with science writers from around the world. "Nearly fifty reporters from the United States, Korea, Japan, Germany and Taiwan gathered in Wilson Hall's One West for a press conference held April 26."

Phil Livdahl (center), Robert Wilson (left), and Leon Lederman
Phil Livdahl (center) stands firmly behind Fermilab "FOUNDER" Robert Wilson (left) and Fermilab "FLOUNDER" Leon Lederman, 1982. - Fermilab Photo
In 1995, FERMINEWS became available to a larger audience with its content posted on the Web, first as pdf files, later both as pdf and html versions. The use of large photos and more graphics in the layout began to enhance the visual appeal of the print copy.

Bylines and credit lines now identified the authors and photographers, and the magazine began to hire science writing interns to produce content for additional pages.

Creativity became a trademark of the evolving publication. From the "All W Edition" (Dec. 12, 1997) to portraying physicist Alvin Tollestrup as Uncle Sam (April 17, 1998) to "Santa at the Speed of Light" (Dec. 11, 1998), FERMINEWS developed its own quirky personality. The Talk of the Lab features regularly poked fun at people and FERMINEWS staff themselves.

One of the most memorable FERMINEWS covers may have been the "Leon-as-Elvis" stamp (July 18, 1997). Like many other great suggestions and fun ideas for the magazine, the stamp design came from Fermilab employees—in this case physicist Rocky Kolb and intern Dawn Donahue. "Not available in post offices," the "commemorative stamp honoring b quark discoverer Leon Lederman's 75th birthday" was unveiled at a gala dinner honoring both quark and Lederman.

The late nineties brought stepped-up reporting on science policy. From science budgets to university profiles to "Painless Physics" stories, FERMINEWS explained the many facets of science while trying to remain personal and provide a glimpse at life at a national laboratory. A completely different layout (Jan. 8, 1999) with a splash of—sometimes daring—colors completed the transition from newsletter to magazine.

FERMINEWS has served food for thought in many different ways. The Dec. 17, 1999 issue had readers guess the names of 42 Nobel Prize-winning particle physicists whose portraits made up the cover. The related story gave background information on the 1999 Nobel Prize, awarded to Gerardus 't Hooft and Martinus Veltman for "elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics."

A few years later, FERMINEWS initiated a dialogue within the particle physics community by introducing the series "Communicating Particle Physics in the 21st Century" (March 29, 2002). Many scientists and readers used the opportunity for a debate on how to explain to the public the revolutionary particle physics opportunities ahead of them.


From left: SciTech Director Ronen Mir with large house guest; Lederman (kneeling) greets Drasko Jovanovic fresh from an audience with the Pope in Rome; visitor Tom Reiter with 39-inch, 39-pound catfish caught in the creek between Kidney Pond and Swan Lake. The 1996 headline: "And We Thought the Top Quark Was Massive!"

The FERMINEWS staff welcomed articles and comments from readers. It was an honor to receive a letter from Jared L. Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon University (Aug. 4, 2000), who responded to a typo in a story on physics students and universities. He explained the difference between a "Melon" and a "Mellon," informing us that "a Carnegie Melon is a hypothetical menu item that I've not yet been able to convince a local club to adopt."

The most moving letter may have come from Suhail Yusuf, Karachi, Pakistan, who sent a "Hello and Assalamu Alaikum" (Nov. 23, 2001). Inspired by the FERMINEWS obituary on Father Tim Toohig, physicist and Jesuit priest (Oct. 19, 2001), Yusuf referred to Toohig as "the man of Science and Spirituality" and wrote, "I pray to Allah for your success and all the members of Fermilab."

After 26 years, it is hard to say good-bye to FERMINEWS. But rest assured: the staff of FERMINEWS and our colleagues at SLAC promise that the new joint publication will have as many quirks and quarks.


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last modified 6/14/2004   email Fermilab