Several wonderful tributes in the past few days to Fermilab’s Tevatron which, until operation began at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, was the highest-energy particle accelerator in the world. The Tevatron ceased operations on September 30th, after more than 25 years. A couple of my favorites are Mark Lancaster in the Guardian, who takes a personal, narrative approach to the story, and John Timmer at Ars Technica, who looks forward to more great projects to come:
Since the 1980s, the US government’s Chicago-area Fermilab has been at the forefront of high-energy physics. That’s in large part thanks to the Tevatron, the machine that first reached the energies needed to discover the last quark in the Standard Model. But the Tevatron has come to the end of its run; at 2pm on Friday, it will be shut down for the last time (an event that will be webcast).
The move will shift physicists’ focus across the Atlantic, to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The LHC is likely to enjoy a long run at the top of particle physics, but in time, it too will be superseded. What might come next? If Fermilab scientists have their way, particle physics could migrate from hadrons to muons. But getting there will take time, research, and the serious application of time-dilating relativity.
The cancellation of the American Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) in the 1990s gave particle physics a hangover. It took years for the next big accelerator (the LHC) to be built, and even when it operates at its designed power, it won’t reach the energies once planned for the SSC. The LHC is also a fundamentally different project, constructed in tunnels built for an earlier collider and requiring financial input from just about every country with a significant physics program. These harsh realities leave just about everyone who thinks about it wondering whether anything more powerful than the LHC will ever get built. It has also forced them to ponder exotic ways to get particles up to high energies using approaches that are fundamentally different from anything we’ve tried before.
There’s also a proposal to turn the site into a museum (!)
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