October 1, 2011 in Nation/World

Accelator smashes its last atom

Ted Gregory Chicago Tribune
 

CHICAGO – The end came at 2:36 p.m. Friday, when Helen Edwards pressed red and blue buttons in the control room at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., and sent a science legend into the black hole of history.

Although researchers will continue to crunch data for years, the work of the famed Tevatron particle accelerator is done.

“I feel that it’s sort of a sad time,” said Edwards, who led the design and construction of the Tevatron.

Protons have been colliding along the Tevatron’s 4-mile underground loop since 1983, spinning off scientific breakthroughs along the way.

But the accelerator was dethroned by the Large Hadron Collider, which is located underground along the border between Switzerland and France.

In December, the new accelerator broke Tevatron’s record for a high-energy particle beam.

Now Fermilab is forcing itself to shift attention elsewhere. Scientists are focusing on what they call the “High Intensity Frontier,” the trillions and trillions of particle collisions the lab coordinates every year.

As part of the shift, Fermilab is planning a couple of other major projects – one that would study the makeup of subatomic neutrinos by firing them underground to South Dakota. The other, Project X, would provide a more intense beam of protons that could delve into areas inaccessible even to the LHC.

But funding is an issue. Construction of new projects, upgrading existing facilities and maintaining all of them is expected to total billions of dollars.

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