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.
The response from the Fermilab director is here
The statements by John Conway about the history of the Tevatron (circa 1976-83) are not entirely accurate. (Tommaso Dorigo may offer his own take on this?) There is no mention of BNL (Brookhaven National Lab) and ISABELLE. When Fermilab started, there was a conflict between FNAL and BNL as to who would get the next big proton machine. The eventual agreement was that Fermilab would do fixed-target (synchrotrons) and BNL would do colliders. So when John says that (paraphrasing) “The lab was engaged in a wide range of fixed target experiments, using the Fermilab Main Ring proton synchrotron as its workhorse …. But Europe pulled ahead – it already had the Super Proton Synchrotron, and plans to convert it into a proton-antiproton collider….”
Well … not quite. *Fermilab* was not building a collider, but *USHEP* as a whole was. BNL was building ISABELLE 1976-83 (approx). The design was 500×500 GeV (sqrt(s)=1 TeV), with the explicit goal of discovering the W and Z. The project failed miserably, and when CERN produced the W and Z using the SppS (UA1 and UA2 expts), then in July 1983 the ISABELLE project was cancelled. The proposal for the SSC was born around the same time.
After the cancellation of ISABELLE, Fermilab went ahead and converted the Tevatron (originally visualized as a fixed-target machine) to be also a p-pbar collider. This was in 1985. But by then CERN had locked up the Nobel Prize (1984 to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer).
Read this about ISABELLE
All good things come to an end, and no doubt, the Tevatron was a very good thing. The issue now is… what is the US experimental particle physics program? The space-based dark energy program (SNAP/JDEM/WFIRST) is delayed to infinity, as is the linear collider. DUSEL hangs by a thread. NOvA is a bit of a wimper. Meanwhile, Italy has green-lighted a super-B factory, China has a charm factory, and Japan has taken over accelerator neutrino physics and kaon physics.
Well, maybe AMS II will make a great discovery.
Are we not physicists? DEVO.
Excellent question. By the way, this made me realize that I have no idea why the US gave up on B physics. As far as I can tell, the Italians are planning on building a B-factory with spare change left over after their CERN contribution (and with no longer needed equipment from the US). What’s that all about?
Maybe whole of HEP community will switch to neutrino physics,
particle astrophysics or LIGO (which is funded)
The future of physics and engineering in USA is in the field of inertial confinement fusion to achieve ignition with the new device NIF. Experimental HEP is RIP in USA. The only hope is in theoretical HEP where USA is still the world leader by far.
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