House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave a deft description of the MINOS experiment, assured his House of Representatives colleague James Oberstar that the neutrino beam would not affect the walleye season in Minnesota, and then was ready for the next challenge of the NuMI/MINOS dedication. "It's an honor to join you," Rep. Hastert told the Ramsey Auditorium audience. "And now I think we have a date with the future, and with destiny."
Rep. Hastert tapped a computer keyboard, and the NuMI beam profile flashed
onto the first screen above the stage. Rep. Oberstar and DOE Office of
Science Director Raymond Orbach together tapped another key, and maps
on the second screen showed the beam path from the lab to the far
detector in the Soudan Underground Laboratory. Fermilab Director Michael Witherell declared: "MINOS has started."
The ovation that followed set the stage for a poignant perspective from the
final speaker of the NuMI/MINOS dedication ceremony on Friday afternoon.
Stan Wojcicki of Stanford University read the comments of his experiment
co-spokesperson, Doug Michael of CalTech, who had planned to attend
but remained in Los Angeles to undergo chemo-therapy treatment for recently-diagnosed multiple non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Through Wojcicki, Michael thanked "the American people for funding our research." He added that as he has experienced his recent diagnosis and treatment: "I marvel at the technology available in 21st-century medical care, technology first developed in our field of high-energy physics, or developed by people trained in high-energy physics."
The dedication ceremony, followed by a lab-wide party in the Atrium, capped a development process for the neutrino experiment extending back to 1995. NuMI/MINOS will send neutrinos 450 miles through the earth from the lab to the 6,000-ton detector located a half-mile underground in the Soudan Underground Laboratory. Rep. Oberstar's father was a miner who worked in the Soudan mine, and the congressman drew a parallel between mining iron ore and mining scientific ore in the disrtrict he represents in Congress.
"The miners extracted nature's hidden treasures from the oldest matter on earth," Oberstar said. "Now scientists will wrest from that same rock the oldest matter in the universe, dating back to the big bang. It's a fascinating contrast."
Addressing the larger picture of the future of research, Hastert emphasized that "to remain near the top, we must continue to look at the next step, at new discoveries and new information." Orbach directly addressed the issue of Fermilab's future: "This is the best high-energy physics lab in the world. The Office of Science and your government intend to keep it that way."
And in remarks to an informal gathering of the media following the ceremony, Hastert directly addressed the issue of the Linear Collider: "If we can afford it, we'll do it."
- Mike Perricone