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Flat Johnny Visits ATLAS

Flat Johnny. (Image courtesy of Sarah Demers.)
Flat Johnny and the SLAC ATLAS group at CERN: (from left) Sarah Demers, Paul Jackson, Charlie Young, Ignacio Aracena, Claus Horn, David Miller and Bart Butler. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Demers.
Click for larger image.)

At the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS control room in Geneva, Swizerland, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory postdoctoral researcher Sarah Demers meets travelers from all over the world. Her most recent visitor is made of paper and arrived by mail.

Hand-drawn by 8-year-old Johnny, a relative of Demers, "Flat Johnny" took a tour of ATLAS and the town of Dresden with her. She chronicled their travels in a series of pictures.

The real Johnny mailed his paper namesake as part of a classroom activity inspired by the book Flat Stanley. In the story, a young boy named Stanley is flattened by a falling bulletin board, and realizes that he can now travel the world by mail. Flat Stanley has his picture taken in various exotic and beautiful locations, and with the people he meets there. The Flat Stanley Project has grown to include thousands of participants, and teaches children letter writing as they send their own "flat" selves to other students, people in locations they'd like to visit, or to famous figures. Clint Eastwood appeared with his daughter's "Flat Stanley" at the Academy Awards, and Arnold Schwarzenegger brought his son's "flat self" on The Tonight Show. Recipients take photos with the flat people and send them back to the students.

Flat Johnny traveled to CERN in this letter. (Image courtesy of Sarah Demers.)

Along with photos, Demers sent postcards from France and Switzerland back to Johnny and his class. "I don't know how much the kids know about CERN. I didn't delve into the physics too much," she said. "I told [Johnny] one of the things I like most about my job is that I get to work with people from all over the world." Demers will continue to work at ATLAS for a few years. She is looking at tau leptons, and works on the trigger for the ATLAS detector with the SLAC group at CERN.

This is the first time Demers has heard of a "flat" person visiting CERN. A Flat Stanley visited the SLAC Klystron Gallery a few years ago with web consultant Kevin Munday and his wife, Kelly Daley. Their flat people, who often come from their 26 nieces and nephews, have also visited ITER in France. "With the SLAC visit, I remember that we wanted to get the photo in the world's longest building," said Munday, who does contract work for SLAC. "We try to take [the flat people] with us when we travel. It's a great way to get kids excited about physics."

—Calla Cofield
SLAC Today, November 20, 2008