Map of Fermilab

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory — better known as Fermilab — is the setting of the last chapter of Final Theory. Located in Batavia, Illinois, amid the western suburbs of Chicago, Fermilab is the home of the Tevatron, America's most powerful particle collider. The lab creates a stream of protons by ionizing hydrogen, then boosts the particles to tremendous velocities in a chain of accelerators. Some of the protons are fired at targets to produce much lighter particles called neutrinos, which are then examined in the lab's detectors. Other protons are used to generate antiprotons, which have the same mass as protons but the opposite charge (which explains why protons and antiprotons travel in opposite directions in the circular accelerators). The protons and antiprotons in the Main Injector are shunted to the Tevatron ring, which accelerates the particles to 99.9999 percent of the speed of light. The particle beams are focused at each other in Collision Hall, where instruments observe the subatomic debris speeding from the proton-antiproton impacts. Because the high-energy collisions sometimes produce exotic particles or phenomena, a careful analysis of the data may someday yield evidence of new physical laws — and perhaps a Theory of Everything (Graphic by Bryan Christie Design).