Fermi descendant visits for filming

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By Roger Snodgrass

The granddaughter of one of the Manhattan Project legends, Olivia Fermi visited Los Alamos this week. On Friday, she was in a video shot entirely on a squash court at the YMCA.

“It’s my first time here,” she said. “I’ve wanted to come for a long time.”

Fermi said she had also visited the Bradbury Science Museum and Los Alamos National Laboratory archivist Roger Meade while in town.

With a natural fascination for her brilliant grandfather, Enrico Fermi, she was drawn to participate in a project by Matthew Day Jackson, an artist who lives in Brooklyn.

“The film was Matthew’s conception,” she said.

At first, Jackson was going to call out the physics department of Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an art project, he said. He proposed the Enrico Fermi Challenge, which was meant to be a squash tournament. But that didn’t work out.

Why squash? One connection is that Fermi’s famous atomic pile experiment took place in a converted squash court under the stands at Stagg’s Field at the University of Chicago. Fermi’s achievement of the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear reaction on Dec. 2, 1942, was one of the scientific milestones on the way to the creation of the atomic bomb.

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