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May 27, 2008

Europe's largest electromagnet

The other day I wandered into the room which contains Europe's largest electromagnet.

"Oh." I said.

The CAPITAL centre was originally a cross-universiy investment, with cutting edge learning environments for every department. Gradually however one department after another pulled out its support, until funding was being supplied solely by the Warwick Writer's Programme, Theatre Studies, History of Art and Physics. Consequently CAPITAL contains a writer's room, several performance spaces and rehearsal areas, a gallery viewing space and anelectromagnetic field that can pull the small change out of your pocket.

So the rumour goes.

The room itself looks at present like a bond villain's main workspace under construction. Tubular piping, irregular machinery - an internal workroom sealed off from the rest of the space by curved glass walls. Large arcane contraptions with dials and blipping things. Computers.

The technician who asked me to leave was very polite - or more than polite, very English.

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking around."


Good question. "Because it's here?"

"I'm sorry, you're going to have to leave. Didn't you see the sign?"

I saw the signs. There are several. They're about two meters across. They read: "Danger - strong electromagnetic field. May kill you dead."


"You're going to have to leave."

I wonder what I looked like to this poor technician. Flat cap, dishevelled gray jacket, large blue rucksack, plastic bag with two slowly defrosting pizzas in it swinging against my leg. Industrial saboteur? Moron?

"How did you get in?"

"Oh, my card let me in. That's why I came in. I figured I was allowed."

"Ah. No we're going to have to change that. Are you a physicist?"

"No, philosophy."

"We're going to have to change that."

The whole escapade had been motivated by curiosity, so I ended it where I started.

"There's this rumour that - due to budget funding and things - CAPITAL centre now has the largest electromagnet in Europe. Is that true?"

"Yes. Well, the largest electromagnetic field. Please make sure nobody comes here again. We're going to have to change that keypad."

I assume that they now have.

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