16 Facts About Secret Underground Labs That’ll Blow Your Mind

Actually, we didn’t really know ANYTHING about secret underground labs. Until now. To uncover more mysteries, watch Helix on Fridays starting January 10 at 10/9c on Syfy, and you can sample the first 15 minutes before the premiere here.

1. First off, YES, underground labs ARE real.

NNSA News / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Via Flickr: nnsanews

This is the Cygnus Dual Beam Radiographic Facility, located nearly 1,000 feet underground at the Nevada National Security Site.

2. They’re used to research subjects like dark matter and neutrinos, which need to be shielded from cosmic rays.

3. The National Ignition Facility (Livermore, CA) houses 192 of the world’s most powerful lasers, which sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie.

NNSA News / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Via Flickr: nnsanews

Maybe that’s why it was used as the set for the Starship Enterprise’s warp core in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness.

NNSA News / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Via Flickr: nnsanews

4. During the Cold War, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Southold, NY) conducted a secret biological weapons program targeting livestock.

USDAgov / CC by 2.0 / Via Flickr: usdagov

It was canceled in 1969.

5. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) operates in a circular tunnel 17 miles in circumference.

© 2013 CERN / CERN-HI-1307174 11 / Via cds.cern.ch

It also resembles the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver.

6. ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), also located at CERN, produces a quark-gluon plasma with a temperature at around 5.5 trillion degrees.

© 2006 CERN / CERN-EX-0603030 01 / Via cds.cern.ch

(And it TOTALLY looks like a gigantic Dalek eyestalk.)

7. CERN’s ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower.

ATLAS Experiment © 2011 CERN / CERN-EX-1101010 02 / Via cds.cern.ch

And it looks just like a Stargate!

MGM Television / Via aliengurrl.tumblr.com

8. CERN is currently hosting a scavenger hunt to find LEGO® figurines hidden throughout their Computing Centre.

David J / CC BY 2.0 / Via Flickr: sebilden

(This isn’t one of them. You’ll have to find the actual figurines on Google Street view.)

9. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station traditionally screens a triple feature of The Thing at the start of the winter season.

Universal Pictures / Via nun-final.tumblr.com

Because there’s no better way to kick off six months of constant darkness than with a movie about a shape-changing monster loose in an Arctic base.

10. SNOLAB (Ontario, Canada), the world’s deepest underground lab, is located two kilometers beneath the earth.

SNOLAB via snolab.ca / Via snolab.ca

12. …and is hiring interns!

SNOLAB via snolab.ca / Via snolab.ca

13. The Centre for Underground Physics in Pyhäsalmi (Finland) has its own sauna.

Jann Kuusisaari / CC by 2.0 / Via Flickr: jann_kuusisaari

(This isn’t it, though.)

14. The Sanford Underground Laboratory (Lead, SD) grows its own copper — the purest copper in the world.

Louise McLaren / CC by 2.0 / Via Flickr: louisephotography

But it doesn’t grow like a tree. It’s a process called electroforming.

It’s also located beneath the Homestake Mine — formerly the largest gold mine in North America.

15. And as for the notorious Area 51 (Groom Lake, NV)…

Oakley Originals / CC by 2.0 / Via Flickr: oakleyoriginals

…2013 is the first time Area 51’s existence has been acknowledged by the CIA and the president.

Ryan Lowery / CC by-ND 2.0 / Via Flickr: ryanlowery

Full disclosure: Obama mentioned it as a joke at the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors, and the CIA declassified documents detailing the history and purpose of Area 51.

16. Area 51 was established for Project Aquatone, the development of the Lockheed U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

Omer Wazir / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Via Flickr: thewazir

These (and other) planes might have been mistaken for unidentified flying objects.

For a glimpse into a more insidious laboratory, watch the premiere of Helix, Friday Jan 10 at 10/9c, only on Syfy.

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