The End Of An Era: Fermilab’s Tevatron Shuts Down – A Tribute

Miracles of the Past, Regular for Tevatron

It should be quite clear that these are merely the most spectacular results that tumbled out of the high energy behemoth. Lesser achievements included the regular production of the W and Z bosons, which are also products of the Standard Model framework. It studied the decay processes and taught us how W’s interact. This would later become invaluable in the search for the Higgs boson.

A few months back, it came up with a result that showed some non-Standard Model particles. However, it was soon discarded later, as the effect was seen only in CDF and not in DZero.

Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, showed his own appreciation for the old workhorse. He said:

The Tevatron has made phenomenal contributions to particle physics. Top of the list has to be the discovery of the top quark in 1995, but there are many more.

One More Success Story

Many more contributions! How true! For one, it discovered Gell-Mann’s missing Omega. In 2009, CDF detected the Omega particle, which was a prediction of the Standard Model and remained just that for 40 years. The Omega discovery was a test for the Standard Model, just like the missing elements were a test for the Periodic Table in Chemistry. CDF’s accurate detection of the particle and its excellent agreement with what the Standard Model predicted was a further confirmation of the wonders of symmetry of the Universe. Need I repeat that it could only have been the Tevatron?

The CDF detector at Tevatron

It Has Saved Lives!!

Great, but how does this affect you? Well, even if you might not know it, Tevatron may have saved the life of someone close to you. How? By establishing superconducting magnets as a mainstay of the magnet industry. Tevatron’s enormous need for superconducting magnets (for focusing the colliding beams) and suitable wires established an industry that has never had to look back. It has made MRI magnets commonplace and, consequently, the MRI scan that you can get done at your local medical diagnosis center is a mundane exercise.

The MRI machine - From particle physics to medicine.

LHC v/s Tevatron: No competition… Almost

The Tevatron has been beaten thoroughly by the LHC at CERN. LHC’s energy at 7 TeV (and soon-to-be 14 TeV) far outstrip that of Tevatron’s, which clocks in at 1.96 TeV, maximum. The LHC detectors are state-of-the-art, far better than CDF’s or D-Zero’s. The greatest superiority of LHC lies in the luminosity of the beam. Simply put, LHC regularly packs more punch in one beam than the Tevatron can hope to achieve. It is natural for people to discount the Tevatron as an aging monster, well past its prime. A quick look at the data for the Higgs search tells a very different story. Tevatron has been instrumental in the low-mass range search for the Higgs boson, ruling out the low-mass Higgs as a possible particle. LHC could never have competed with the Tevatron in the low-mass regime.

The LHC is the clear winner. One of the accelerating chambers.

The days of American dominance of the high energy physics world had ended five years back. Europe has taken the lead and by a huge margin. None of that counts when one looks back and admires a machine, which revolutionized our understanding of the Universe, gave tremendous confidence in the model that we have and helped chart the road forward. It had to be the Tevatron.

Here’s bidding the irreplaceable Tevatron a sad farewell!

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.