Patrick Whelan peers through the faceplate of his clean-room bunny suit to see how things are going.
Before him is a gleaming chunk of glass, roughly the size of a toaster oven, that is carved with so many scooped-out sections to reduce its weight that it looks like an alien totem. Whelan’s team is gluing it to a large, coffee-table-size piece of aluminum. Both metal and glass are eerily smooth, having been polished for weeks to remove minute imperfections. Over the next 24 hours, as the glue solidifies, workers will neurotically monitor the position of the glass and metal to make sure they fuse together just so.
“These will be placed together to microns of precision,” Whelan tells me, gesturing at the apparatus.
A nearby technician worries he’s too close, and yelps: Back up!
“I’m not touching! I’m not touching!” Whelan says, laughing.