Americans inspired by Tinkywinky's house

October 1, 1999

The influence of the Teletubbies has spread from some of the youngest minds to some of the sharpest, as scientists and engineers at the Fermilab, near Chicago, confess that the children's television programme provided inspiration for a key element of their latest experiment. Essential design features of the $10 million MiniBooNE installation, which aims to discover evidence for neutrino mass, are to be based on the Teletubbies' grass-covered playroom. The US version will house the electronics - the computers, cables, racks and amplifiers - used to control the experiment. The circular chamber, buried under a mound of earth, will sit atop a 12m deep shaft containing a four-storey spherical steel tank lined with phototubes and filled with ultra-pure mineral oil. Retired Fermilab engineer Tom Pawlak, who had been called into a brainstorming meeting on the construction, is said by colleagues to have come up with the idea after babysitting for his grandchildren. The Teletubby design will save both time and money compared with previous ideas. Nevertheless, the civil construction costs are still expected to be about $1.5 million.

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