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Monday, January 10, 2011

End of an Era in U.S. Science - Shutting Down Tevatron

As I had feared, another area of science in the U.S., which the U.S. has led the world since WWII, high energy particle physics, is about to end. The Tevatron, the main accelerator at Fermilab, outside Chicago, is scheduled to shut down later this year. This machine used to hold the world record for energy (for a couple decades) at nearly 2 trillion volts per beam. Being a national laboratory, the main funding for Fermilab comes through the Department of Energy, and due to budgetary cuts to fight the $1.5 trillion federal deficit, funding will not continue.

While this was expected, I cannot help but have mixed feelings about this one. I spent 4 years involved with the Collider Detector Facility (CDF) experiment while in graduate school at the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and have many fond memories of the many colleagues and friends I worked with as I earned my doctorate with CDF data. It was very exciting to be part of the celebration of the discovery of the top quark in 1994-5. I also wonder what will happen to the thousands of people who are employed through Fermilab. It is an end of an era, to be sure.

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