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Fermilab | Batavia, IL | USA

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Timmy the geek monkey goes to Fermilab

This story appeared in the February issue of symmetry magazine.

Timmy in front of Wilson Hall. Courtesy Todd Palino

Visitors often go bananas over Fermilab, but they rarely bring monkeys along.

Virginia resident Todd Palino had Timmy, a seven-inch-tall stuffed monkey, tucked into his camera bag when he took part in the laboratory’s first amateur photowalk. It was part of an international event that took photographers behind the scenes at five physics labs in August.

Part marketing tool and part social phenomenon, Timmy the Monkey is the creation of ThinkGeek.com and its parent company Geeknet (which also owns the popular news aggregator Slashdot). The little primate tours the world visiting famous landmarks and sharing the photo frame with celebrities such as Adam Savage, host of “Mythbusters.” Timmy has even dared to sit in Sheldon’s spot—no one’s supposed to sit there—on the couch on the set of “Big Bang Theory.”

Palino learned about the particle physics photowalks from ThinkGeek’s Twitter feed. When he told company representatives

Timmy in the antiproton source, where antimatter gets made. Courtesy Todd Palino

he had snagged a spot at the Fermilab event, they asked if he would take a Timmy monkey along. He agreed; and once there, he discovered that Illinois photographer Mike Frighetto had done the same.

Timmy at the Cockcroft-Walton, where particle beams originate. Courtesy Todd Palino

They snapped shots of Timmy sitting on a superconducting cryomodule, on a liquid nitrogen tank, near the Cockcroft Walton pre-accelerator, and in front of Fermilab’s iconic Wilson Hall.

Palino tweeted his photos, which ThinkGeek reposted.

“It was kind of like a little part of us was there,” said ThinkGeek community manager Carrie Gouldin, who runs the company’s Twitter feed. “Many of us wished we were.”

— Rhianna Wisniewski