The Seven Wonders of Illinois

By JoAnne Hewett | February 28, 2007 1:25 am

I’ve just arrived at Fermilab for a 2-month sabbatical (gotta do my part to enhance the CV geographic distribution) and learned of a contest sponsered by the state of Illinois to chose the Seven Wonders of Illinois. It’s a gimmick, of course, to promote tourism and is a total rip-off of the ancient seven wonders of the world. Visitors to the Illinois Bureau of Tourism Seven Wonders web site can nominate their favorite wonder. Note that timing is of the essence – nominations are due by 1 March, 2007 (this Thursday!). The state has been divided into seven regions and folks are asked to pick a region in which they want to nominate a site. Online voting will then take place to pick the top sites from the nominations starting March 5. The field will be successively narrowed through the rest of the month and the Illinois tourism bureau will announce one winner for each of the seven regions on April 30.

Curious? So, ya go to the 7 wonders website and you see lots of pictures that the good folks at the Illinois tourism board consider worthy of nomination – historic courthouses, lakes, Indian burial mounds, riverboats, majestic big city buildings, but nothing – absolutely nothing – of what I consider to be the most important, and probably famous, site in Illinois: Fermilab! This is a place that is special and unique to the planet, and yet retains its roots in the prairie land of Northern Illinois. I think the good folks of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism should take note. Afterall, it is (presently) the most energetic particle accelerator on earth and has made, and has the potential to make further, fundamental discoveries of the nature of the universe. It is also honestly a wonder in itself to the human eye. The collider ring circumference is 6.28 km and can easily be viewed by an airplane heading to or from one of Chicago’s airports. The accompanying office building is a 15 story highrise, built in an A-frame shape with a spectacular multi-story atrium. To retain its natural connection to the land, the lab boasts a buffalo farm (gosh the young ones in the spring are cute!) and a prairie wilderness area.

It’s a truly spectacular site! And is more than worthy of being one of the top seven wonders of Illinois. So, there’s one day left to nominate – let’s flood’em with nominations for Fermilab! Let the folks at the Illinois Bureau of Tourism know that people from all over the world think they’ve got something truly special (which they do).

To nominate, go here. You gotta type in your address (even better if you’re out of state/country – let’em know Fermilab is famous!), and write a 250 characters maximum blurb on why you think Fermilab is a wonder. That was tough for me – I hit 250 words and hadn’t even touched all the lab’s features.

Go to it folks – let’s show’em that science is important!

Update: Alas, Fermilab did not make the first cut of sights for the first vote! I’m sure we had plenty of nominations, perhaps the committee thought it was too esoteric. C’est la vie in the science world.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and the Media
  • Steven Schreiber

    But do they give tours?

  • Aaron

    I gave Fermilab a nomination – here’s to hoping both that it makes the ballot, and that it earns a spot on the list of 7!

  • Martin Griffiths

    Make that 250 *characters* – even more difficult!

  • adam

    I really like Fermilab. The view from the top is great, too.

    The traffic between Fermilab and downtown Chicago should be one of the wonders of Illinois too. Jesus wept.

  • michael pierce

    Argonne Lab, Advanced Photon Source

  • álvaro josé castro rivadeneira

    Even a former professor of mine here in Quito, Ecuador was linked and worked directly with Fermilab. I’m definitely nominating it…

  • JoAnne

    Steven: yes, they definitely give tours, if you’re in the area check their web site for tour info and please come by.

    Martin: Corrected – thanks!

  • graviton383

    Done! I especially enjoy the buffalos…

  • adam

    Joanne, what happens to SLAC and/or Fermilab if DoE decide to cut back on the particle accelerator business? Is there a situation where one closes and one doesn’t? Does it depend on where the ILC is to be built (if it is to be built) or is that already decided?

  • JoAnne


    The B-Factory at SLAC will be shut down at the end of FY08, but construction on the Linear Coherent Light Source has already begun. This is a $400M project which uses the linac at SLAC and will be the world’s first X-ray free electron laser. This project ensures a healthy future for the lab. See for more info on the science program. In addition, SLAC is the leading lab for the camera for LSST, a ground-based dark energy experiment. There will still be a particle physics/astro division at SLAC.

    The current plan for Fermilab is to shut down the Tevatron at the end of FY09. At that point an accelerator-based neutrino experiment, Nova, will be under construction. Fermilab has a close connection with the LHC and has created the LHC Physics Center and a LHC operations control room in the atrium of the highrise. The lab will also retain an active astro program, with DES (Dark Energy Survey) and SNAP, a space-based dark energy mission. In addition, Fermilab would very much like to build the ILC. Whether the ILC is built, and where, is anyone’s guess at this point, but the first step is that the LHC has to provide the physics justification for it. Additional potential accelerator projects, within and outside of HEP, for Fermilab are currently under discussion – there’s not much to say at this point, but a cmtte will submit a report this summer. We all certainly hope for a healthy and thriving Fermilab in the future!

  • adam

    It sounds sort of promising, then. SNAP is part of ‘Beyond Einstein’ though, isn’t it? I thought that Beyond Einstein was short of funds. Also, while astro and cosmology there is really good (and their work on Sloan was great, I am told), the building’s huge with a very large amount of staff that aren’t in that field at all. How much is dependent on whether or not LHC provides the right sort of results? Presumably, nothing of interest found at all will dampen enthusiasm for spending lots of money on a new accelerator, but if they just find Higgs and nothing else, not a sniff of supersymmetry, say, isn’t that pretty bad too?

    I hope that Fermilab stays open at its current scale, anyhow. Even with it being funded with my tax dollars (and, you know, other people’s tax dollars; I don’t pay quite enough tax to fund Fermilab myself).

  • Changcho

    Done! Science *is* important (and the architecture is intriguing; hope to visit it someday).


  • Stephen Uitti

    I got a Fermilab tour in the mid 80’s. It was an unofficial tour – a friend of a friend worked there. Very cool. Yeah, yeah, the ring, the detectors, etc. I liked the big “C” – the big capacitor outside.

  • Clifton Moore

    I got to go on a field trip their some time ago. Was definately cooler then the standard “Lets go downtown to the Chicago Fire museum, then to the Sears tower, then go to lunch at Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s” field trip that every child in the Chicago-area public school system gets to go on atleast once since the history of forever.

  • Lab Lemming

    Can we nominate the APS instead?

  • adam

    Clifton #14: Wait, there’s a Rock’n’Roll McDonalds?

    Noooooooooooooo. I want my vote back.

  • Kendra

    I grew up in northern Illinois but never visited Fermilab until I went “away” (to wisconsin) to college. Definitely one of the under-appreciated wonders of the state.

  • TBB

    I hope this post isn’t duplicated because it locked up on me, but wow, trying to write only 250 characters was hard! I had to go for an ampersand and leave out energy before particle. I didn’t even get to talk about their stewardsip of the land and promoting native flora and fauna! I felt like just putting a link to Fermilab’s “About” page and saying, “Look, duh!”

    If this is hard to squeeze in 250 characters, I can imagine how hard it is do the 60 second answers for much more complex physics questions. (That’s a nod to Sean et al.)

    So, I went for unique, world-known, and I’d visit there from out of state, which is true, but I couldn’t even fit in “for the advancement of scientific research that…” Anyway, it’s all that could fit, so hope it’s OK: :-/

    Fermilab is a world-class facility currently housing the largest particle accelerator in the world. Many of the brightest scientists from around the globe visit & work at this unique facility, which will definitely be on my itinerary when visiting IL.

  • Clifton Moore

    Adam #16: Not just any Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s, the ORIGINAL Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s. Although I’ll be damned if I pay $6 for regular McDonald’s food AND no dollar menu.

  • judith weingarten

    Funny they forgot the most interesting event in Illinois’ recent history, the mass hysteria at Matoon, Ill. in 1944. An eighth wonder? Still not properly understood.

  • Mustafa Mond, FCD

    Thanks for the link. I like Fermilab, but put in a nomination for the Bahai temple in Wilmette instead.

  • macles

    Wasn’t the basketball court at U of C famous for something or other?

  • Adam S

    Judith #20: Apparently, EM Purcell, of EM fame, was educated in Matoon. His book is a wonder of the world, no?

    Mustafa #21: I nominated both :)

    Macles #22: The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place in the U of C raquets courts, underneath the football stadium bleachers, I believe.

  • adam

    Another question for Joanne: Fermilab is in Speaker Denny Hastert’s district, which presumably never hurt when it came to funding. The new Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is from San Francisco, not a million miles from SLAC. What practical implications does this have?

  • JoAnne

    Adam: It’s really anybody’s guess at this point, but my guess is that the new situation in Congress will actually be better for science as a whole. Hastert had Fermilab in his district, but he was just one guy, and could only put in earmarks for FNAL. Hyde (representing Argonne’s district) voted against scientific projects many times (even the SSC when Argonne was heavily involved).

    Meanwhile the Bay Area Congressional Caucus (which I know meets frequently and is very aware of scientific issues and is sure to always have a member on the science cmtte) has three major national laboratories within their purvue: SLAC, Lawrence Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore. Berkeley is head of SNAP. SLAC is head of LSST. The whole linear collider concept orginated at SLAC, and SLAC remains a driving force (and we’re happy to build it at Fermilab – if they want it). All the labs have major involvement in the LHC. So, a reasonable fraction of the Congressional delegration which currently holds the power (recall the Bay Area is essentially 100% democratic) is very much aware of the importance of a broad swath of fundamental scientific research.

    And, the proof isn’t in the pudding yet, but science got a boost with an increase in budgets in FY07, while everone else remained constant. That never happened under Hastert’s rule.

  • bittergradstudent

    Well, the Sears tower was the tallest building in the world for a long time, and, aside from Teotihuácan, Cahokia was the largest settlement in the western hemisphere. Both are pretty impressive. Hard to argue against Fermilab, though.

  • bob

    Clifton #14: I guess I’m really old. When I was a kid, the standard school tours in Chicago included:
    the Stockyards — get to see cows and pigs killed in front of you – amazing smells too!
    Marshall Fields – when there was a Marshall Fields. Included one of the last stations of the now-departed freight tunnel
    Cracker Jacks factory – now that was a tour!

  • Dave

    Vote submitted! As a former Fermilab intern (office of public affairs), I know it’s got to be in the top 7.

  • Darrell Brown

    When I was born, I received a healthy dose of itchy feet in my blood supply. My wife, I had to settle down sooner of later, says that I have lived everywhere. So, I live in beautiful Kansas City, MO.

    In my travels I have been blessed with free, no money of my own, to travel europe, explore the fluted rocks on the Oregon coast, and much more. More beautiful than any other place – I think is the Missippi River at Nauvoo, Illinois. The lazy river with boats, greenery done to the river banks, and the old city of Nauvoo earns my vote for the lead attraction. It was on the last trip to Illinois that I saw Nauvoo from the west side of the river, the Iowa side, for the first time. Wow! And the city has a warm friendly ambience. I will go back to Nauvoo as frequently as I can.

    I can dig razorback clams in Washington, wade in the Englsh Channel (Des Pan, Belgium), boat in the fjords of Norway again – another day. Today, maybe I will sample fresh cheese in Nauvoo – walk around the Mormon Temple and feel the atmosphere as I can find no where else! I LOVE it.

    Thank you,


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