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4 July 2016

Baseball, apple pie and magnets

Flags wave in front of MagLab headquarters. Flags wave in front of MagLab headquarters. Stephen Bilenky

This week at the lab, we're observing the U.S. national holiday. And what better time than Independence Day to celebrate the fact that we're not just the MagLab — we're the National MagLab.

The MagLab is one of dozens of research facilities across the country supported by taxpayer dollars through the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies. The NSF provides most of the lab's $55 million annual operating budget, with the State of Florida contributing about a quarter of those funds.

Thanks to the clout and commitment of the federal government, national science facilities are able to develop expertise and infrastructure to conduct specialized experiments. The facilities might feature telescopes, synchrotrons, neutron sources, supercomputers, research vessels or (of course!) magnets.

"They all allow science to be done on a scale that no one institution, university or company could do on their own," explained Eric Palm, associate director of the National MagLab.

Many of these labs and centers, including the MagLab, are so-called user facilities — "users being scientists from other institutions who apply to do experiments there. MagLab users get to do research here for free — as long as they share their results.

This is where the National MagLab's influence goes global. As the largest and highest-powered magnet lab on the planet, it's a unique international resource. Last year's 1,615 users represented 34 countries and generated research read by scientists worldwide. In fact, since 2000, MagLab experiments have resulted in more than 8,000 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Text by Kristen Coyne. Photo by Stephen Bilenky.

Last modified on 1 July 2016