Physicists build giant machines to study tiny particles
Diana Parno’s head swam when she first stepped inside the enormous, metallic vessel of the experiment KATRIN. Within the house-sized, oblong structure, everything was symmetrical, clean and blindingly shiny, says Parno, a physicist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “It was incredibly disorienting.”
Now, electrons — thankfully immune to bouts of dizziness — traverse the inside of this zeppelin-shaped monstrosity located in Karlsruhe, Germany. Building the experiment took years and tens of millions of dollars. Why create such an extreme apparatus? It’s all part of a bid to measure the mass of itty-bitty subatomic particles known as neutrinos. Read more.