By day, Fermilab’s Main Ring seems like a nice place to go. You can wander along the road, watch the wind rock the prairie grass, maybe even duck out there for a nice afternoon slumber. During the day, you can also see people at work.
But you’ll never see them at night.
A team drawn from across the laboratory was recently assembled to clean out and demolish no longer used service buildings E2 and E3, which supplied the Main Ring with electrical power, cooling water, and vacuum systems and housed the control systems for magnets in the tunnel below.
By day, the team worked on the site. But before the sun went down, they made absolutely sure to leave the premises.
Why? Everyone who asks that question gets the same response: Don’t go there and don’t ask why.
But finally, last week, someone broke the silence about what was going on after dark at E2 and E3.
“I had to go back. I mean, I forgot my jacket. My car keys and wallet were in there,” said a member of the demolishing team who wished to remain anonymous. “I really considered walking home to Geneva, because, you know, you really don’t want to go back there. Not at night at least …”
I asked him to tell me the whole story and he told me:
I saw night cast its deep shadows over the Main Ring. The pale moon and the few flickering streetlights are the only light you see. Unseen things were crawling out of every crack and opening. Out of the corner of your eye, you are sure, there is a movement in the dark. But once you turn around and look, there is nothing there, only a cold chill and silence.
The things, whatever they are, rush from place to place without being seen, but what they leave behind is very visible.
Or rather, what is missing is very obvious. I saw it. The destruction.
Cables seemed to rip themselves from the trays. Metal frames bent until screws went flying through the air. Gigantic pipes hovered around the building. Roof tiles came loose and fell off. It was as if millions of invisible hands were conducting their own nocturnal demolition project. I stood there and stared.
Then I saw the things. They were everywhere. They seem to glow. There were so many. And they had hard hats. They were ripping the cables, pipes and concrete out of the walls as if they were nothing. They carried it all outside, and then everything just vanished.
That was when it hit me: They were cleaning out.
We believe these “things” were neutrinos ghosts that come out at night and clean out the demolished buildings, finishing what we did not during the day. They want the old buildings gone, and in their ghoulish way, they do everything they can to make it happen.
Maybe they have plans for a future use of the ring. We don’t know. We don’t want to ask.
You just don’t question ghostly particles that clean for you in the middle of the night. (Besides, they’re doing us a favor.)
And remember, you do not disturb them. One person did, and while he lived long enough to tell the tale, he disappeared late last week.
Haven’t seen him since.