Minnesota Senator Al Franken recently went to the Soudan Mine, in Minnesota, last week to tour the 2,500-feet underground mine which houses the:
- Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS II) - a dark matter detector
- Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) - a high-energy neutrino detector
Al Franken at the Sept. 2006 premiere
of his comedy show "Al Franken: God Spoke"
Source: William D. Bird/Getty Images
Franken has been known for years as a comedy writer on NBC's Saturday Night Live, most notably appearing on camera as the self-help guru Stewart Smalley (from whence this blog post title comes). Since then, he's had stint as a liberal commentator on Air America radio network, and has most recently gotten a new job: Senator for the state of Minnesota.
As a Senator, he gets a bit more respect than in past professions, which is no doubt why the Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy, Fermilab, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invited him to the Soudan Mine. There they explained to him the new experiment NuMI Off-Axis Neutrino Appearance (NOvA) Experiment, which will use the same particle beam as MINOS. As they explained using a picnic table, a Pepsi can, a Sprite can, and the keen advice from Franken that they "pretend he's not a physicist" (that's the comedy background, for ya), the beam of neutrinos starts at Fermilab and travels about 500 miles to MINOS at Soudan. It will then be routed, after going through the MINOS apparatus, on to Ash River, Minnesota.
The new NOvA facility is being funded, in part, by the stimulus money that is being routed toward improving scientific research facilities around the United States. The NOvA construction, begun in May, should result in over 125 construction-related jobs, and the hope is that this will continue to help the Minnesota economy for years to come. For more on this, check out the full story over at the Fermilab/SLAC blog, Symmetry Breaking.