December 18, 2012
At two miles long, SLAC's linear particle accelerator, or "linac" to those familiar, is a monster of a machine. But now thanks to an old collection of Legos and some creative work by SLAC graphic designer Greg Stewart, the linac has been drastically reduced in size. After happening upon his Legos at home one night, Stewart decided to spend his evening designing, building and photographing this Lego diorama homage to the inside of the SLAC linac, a place that's 20 feet underground and not often seen by anyone besides the accelerator engineers who work there.
While not meant to be an exact replica by any means, the Lego linac has an impressive level of detail. For example, many are surprised to learn the more obvious large pipe is the light pipe, which contains a laser used to maintain precise alignment of the accelerator, while the particle accelerator itself is actually in the smaller tube above. The rectangular parts that straddle the accelerator pipe are the waveguides, which carry the electromagnetic waves to propel electrons or positrons to nearly the speed of light. SLAC's safety officers will even be pleased to see the Lego workers wearing their "PPE" (personal protective equipment, in this case helmets).
For reference to the actual linac, see our Flickr gallery that contains both the Lego and real-life photos.