Mike Albrow

sunset over Fermilab, sky, sunset, cloud, sun

Driving home after the Wilson Colloquium last night, hundreds of flying geese flew out of my field of view, but the sky was amazing without them — in both directions!

After World War II, physicists developed proton accelerators to understand matter and forces on a subnuclear scale. Rival proposals to build a giant machine on the east or west coasts lost out to a proposal by Bob Wilson for a cheaper design at a new laboratory in the Midwest.

Imagine: You are outside on a sunny day, and it starts to get really dark, not just heavily overcast, but night-dark, perhaps dark enough to see stars.

Imagine you are lying (or frying) on a beach near the equator at midday. Feel the heat! It is 1.37 kilowatts per square meter.

This story starts in Victorian times, with a huge puzzle. Charles Darwin had convinced biologists that all life has been evolving from simple forms for hundreds of millions of years. But, at the rate the sun is shining, without some unknown fuel it would burn out in less than 20 million years.