While I was away at Stony Brook yesterday, every other blog and news source out there had a story you’ve surely seen about the DOE’s decision to turn down a proposal to seek funding to keep the Tevatron running past the end of this fiscal year. This means that soon the long era of physics at the high-energy frontier pioneered and often dominated by the US will conclusively be over, probably at least for the rest of my lifetime. It will continue in Europe at CERN, with the LHC and whatever follow-on machines get designed and built there. In some sense this was bound to happen sooner or later, once the decision was made to pull the plug on the SSC. See Cosmic Variance for a long history of the Tevatron from John Conway. Also, see here for the latest from the director of Fermilab.
The US is throwing in the towel for a combination of reasons that include a desire to devote all resources to new ventures with more of a future, the fact that continued running would not dramatically increase the total size of the data set, and faith that the LHC will reach its goal of several inverse femtobarns of data at 4 GeV/beam over the next couple years. It’s still somewhat difficult though to understand why, in order to save 5% of its HEP budget, the US is shutting down a machine that continues to produce important new results, some of which cannot be easily studied at the LHC. An intriguing example is CDF’s recent data on asymmetry in the production of top-anti-top pairs. For an explanation of this you can’t do better than to see the discussion at Resonaances. This result uses the fact that the Tevatron collides protons and antiprotons, allowing measurements that can’t be done with proton-proton data from the LHC.
Unlike the CDF result, the latest LHC results just exclude more and more popular extensions of the Standard model. CMS yesterday (see here and here) released results (discussed earlier here) that rule out a range of once popular values for masses of supersymmetric partners. In this arena, the LHC is quickly moving to outclass bounds from the Tevatron.