Since 1983, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab outside Chicago has been faithfully smashing particles and probing deeper into the mysteries of physics. But its time is nearly at an end.
The Large Hadron Collider—that big European underground ring you might have heard of—surpassed Tevatron in size and energy. The American collider’s operators had hoped to extend its life a few more years, especially with LHC still getting up to speed. But the money just wasn’t there, and so the announcement came yesterday that Tevatron would shut down in September.
In the fall, the Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics Advisory Panel recommended that the Tevatron be funded to run for three years beyond the planned end in September of 2011, largely in order to provide additional information in the search for the Higgs boson. … But in a letter to day to the chair of HEPAP, the head of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, William Brinkman, wrote that “Unfortunately, the current budgetary climate is very challenging, and additional funding has not been identified. Therefore…operation of the Tevatron will end in FY2011, as originally scheduled.”
Conway’s lengthy eulogy for a particle accelerator is a great read, including plenty of the history of the rivalry between American physicists and the CERN physicists in Europe building their own huge smashers, leading up to the LHC.
80beats: New Revelations From Particle Colliders Past, Present & Future
80beats: Fermilab Particle Physicists Wonder: Are There 5 Higgs Bosons?
80beats: Ghost in the Machine? Physicists May Have Detected a New Particle at Fermilab
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Particle physicists hunting for the Higgs boson reported their latest findings yesterday at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris. The big two–Europe’s Large Hadron Collider and Fermilab’s Tevatron Collider (in Illinois)–gave updates, and other conference buzz included talk of a new facility, the International Linear Collider, which may one day give physicists a cleaner look at the other colliders’ results.
Large Hadron Collider — More Detailed Models Help the Search
Currently operating at 7 Tera electron Volts (TeV), the Large Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Though electrical malfunctions hindered the collider in 2008, now LHC scientists report that they have made up for lost time: finding in months, what took the Tevatron, with its 2 TeV collisions, decades.
“The scientific community thought it would take one, maybe two years to get to this level, but it happened in three months,” said Guy Wormser, a top French physicist and chairman of the conference.[AFP]
If the Higgs boson is the “God Particle,” then some particle physicists just turned polytheistic. To explain a recent experiment, they wonder if five Higgs bosons give our universe mass instead of one.
Last month, we discussed a curious experiment at the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab near Chicago. Colliding protons and antiprotons, the Tevratron’s DZero group found more matter than antimatter.
This agrees well with common sense–if the Big Bang had really churned out equal amounts of matter and antimatter, the particles would have annihilated each other, and we wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, the physics for this matter favoritism doesn’t make sense.
For one, it requires some fudging to fit the Standard Model, the organizing theory for particle physics. This might seem sad since we were so close to finishing the Standard Model up, with the Higgs filling the last cage in physicists’ particle zoo:
For those who believe the Standard Model is nearly complete, the discovery of the Higgs boson–a theoretical particle that imparts mass to all the other particles–would close out the final chapter. But for others who think that undiscovered physics properties exist–so-called new physics–a sequel to the Standard Model is needed. [Symmetry]
As opposed to simply energy, the universe is also made of stuff. Not a whole lot of stuff, mind you, at least if you compare the matter we experience to the vast emptiness of space or the preponderance of dark matter. But enough.
The continued prevalence of matter has long been one of my favorite attributes of the universe, given that it allows for the existence of galaxies, and Guinness. However, it’s the source of confusion to physicists. In short, there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter present at the creation of the universe, which doesn’t make sense:
If matter and antimatter had come out even in those first moments, they would have instantly destroyed each other, leaving nothing but energy behind [TIME].
But they didn’t; as sure as I’m sitting here, matter won out. And this week, at the Tevatron particle smasher in Illinois, a new clue to the problem has emerged. In a study for Physical Review D, physicist Dmitri Denisov and his colleagues explain that in long-running proton-antiproton collisions (nearly 8 years of them), they saw a slight favoritism toward normal matter in a particular place:
Strange things are afoot at the Tevatron particle collider at Fermilab, and the aging U.S. particle smasher is getting an unexpected moment in the spotlight while physicists wait for the repairs of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Researchers say experiments at the Tevatron have produced particles that they are unable to explain using the standard model of physics, and say it’s possible that they’ve detected a previously unknown particle. If the result does turn out to be due to some unexpected new process, it would be the most significant discovery in particle physics for decades [Physics World].
Bloggers and theorists are already lining up explanations that involve unseen particles, hypothetical strings, or modifications of conventional physics. The finding is so controversial that about one-third of the 600-person experiment that detected it are refusing to put their names on the 69-page paper purporting its discovery [Nature News], which was posted in advance of publication on the server arXiv.