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Physics, at your fingertips

Online magazine editor Kathryn Jepsen brings particle matter to the people

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 4:53 p.m. CDT

Visit symmetry magazine online by visiting www.symmetrymagazine.org. Subscribers can choose to receive email updates daily, weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.

BATAVIA – Complicated subjects such as the study of dark matter, neutrinos and other elements of particle physics can be tricky to explain.

Fortunately for Kathryn Jepsen and others who write for Fermilab's online magazine, symmetry, the experts on all sorts of scientific matters at the ready, helping break down national scientific studies into straightforward information for the everyday reader and science enthusiast.

Jepsen, deputy editor of symmetry and senior communicator in the office of communications, said the magazine largely focuses on particle physics, or "the smallest components of nature."

Jepsen said symmetry aims to explain complicated matters in a way that everyone can understand – not just physicists.

"The way to make science compelling is to find out why it's compelling to physicists," she said.

The magazine also serves to inform the public about the latest experiments happening at Fermilab. Jepson said symmetry has been filling readers in on what's next for Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator since it ceased operation in 2011.

"The Tevatron is shut down, but there are plans to use it for other experiments involving the study of muons and neutrinos," Jepsen said.

Neutrinos are tiny particles with almost no mass, Jepsen said.

"They're always moving through you," she said. "They've been around since the beginning of the universe and they might hold clues about how the universe formed."

A Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment will use the existing Tevatron at Fermilab to further explore neutrinos, Jepsen said. Muons, for the record, are basically heavier versions of electrons, Jepsen said. Articles are published weekly in the online version of symmetry magazine, a joint publication between Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. The magazine also is printed one to two times a year, and Sandbox Studios in Chicago assist with print and online design elements, such as user-friendly online animations.

The Spring 2013 print version of symmetry highlights scientists' pursuit of learning more about dark matter and dark energy. Jepsen said the stars and planets – elements of space we can actually see – only make up 4 to 5 percent of the universe. The rest is considered dark matter and dark energy.

In the first line of "Illuminating the Dark Universe," writer Glennda Chui puts that number into perspective by stating, "If you could use only 5 percent of the alphabet, you'd be stuck with the letter A."

The first issue of symmetry was published in 2004 and made its online debut last year.

She said anyone with an interest in science would enjoy reading symmetry, adding that the physicists and other experts who often are quoted in the magazine feel a sense of ownership in the publication.

"They feel invested in it," she said. "They consider it to be their publication, too."

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