Argone Physicist Carpenter: Getting into
Soon after the opening of "The Incredible Hulk," matinee cheers at a weekday showing came at an unusual spot in the movie, erupting from an equally unusual group. The appearance of the gammasphere, the 14-ton machine that goes awry to create the Hulk, received applause from physicists and engineers playing hooky from the Argonne National Laboratory. The gammasphere is a $20 million gamma ray microscope located at their facility in suburban Chicago. The physicists note that the gamma rays that created The Incredible Hulk don't cause huge muscles in real life, but the Argonne staffers were "some of the biggest, toughest guys at the matinee," Carpenter says. The movie version is "an amazing copy" built in Hollywood because there wasn't enough room to film the scene with the Real McCoy, according to Mike Carpenter, project manager. Not to mention that it's a bit easier for The Hulk to pick up the lightweight model of a 14-ton machine. The gammasphere was at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory when moviemakers took photos and got architectural information. Though The Hulk couldn't pick up the actual machine, a team moves it every other year, most recently returning it to Argonne. In either facility, the gammasphere works something like a gamma ray microscope, determining the shape of atomic nuclei. It uses about 100 germanium detectors to detect gamma rays from nuclei created by another device, one even larger than the 14-ft tall machine that's now a matinee idol for technologists. Noting that there are a couple other gammaspheres in the scientific world, Carpenter adds that, "Argonne's European colleagues are very jealous that ours is in the movie and theirs isn't." Technologists not used to publicity of any sort now find kids asking about their work, and neighbors kidding them about their new fame. "I had my picture in the local paper wearing a Hulk t-shirt," Carpenter says.
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