The Tevatron at Fermilab, among the places reporter Bob McCoppin had to get a handle on quickly in the course of a day's work.

The Tevatron at Fermilab, among the places reporter Bob McCoppin had to get a handle on quickly in the course of a day's work. (July 28, 2011)

When a beat reporters go to work, they know what they’ll be covering: courts, crime, city hall, etc.  General assignment reporters like me know one thing: each day will be different than the last.

My recent subjects have ranged from mobile homes to casinos to roofing. That variety stimulates curiosity, but it also means working from the ground up to learn every new subject, sometimes in a day.

So when I heard that Fermilab in Batavia was God Particle" href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-god-particle-20110727,0,6744483.story">getting closer to finding or ruling out the theoretical Higgs boson – a crucial clue to confirm prevailing ideas of how the universe works – I bit on it.

Suddenly, I was plunged into a world of quarks, leptons and gigaelectronvolts.

As always, I relied on experts in the field to translate the barely comprehensible to the somewhat understandable. Perhaps I strained an analogy by comparing the search for the particle to the hunt for John Dillinger, which prompted one reader to say I “defiled” both the city and the science.

No offense meant, but when you cover new ground every day, you’re bound to step on some landmines.

-- Robert McCoppin

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