Tevatron collider falls silent after 26 years of smash hits

Mark Lancaster in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_05 Oct. 02 21.41 At 8pm BST today in prairie land just outside Chicago, a feat that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime will occur for the last time: man-made collisions of high-energy protons and anti-protons.

The final collisions at Fermilab's Tevatron collider bring to an end an odyssey that began in Bob Wilson's (not the Arsenal goalkeeper's) mind as Elvis topped the charts with The Wonder of You; produced its first collisions to the accompaniment of Jennifer Rush warbling about The Power of Love; and discovered the top quark just as Celine Dion was advising the world to Think Twice.

The odyssey ends, 26 years after the first collisions, with the dual horror of the Higgs boson potentially being found to be a hoax and a bunch of teenagers who failed to win X Factor topping the charts. I don't know who is more upset: me, Elvis or Peter Higgs.

I have been working on the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) experiment at the Tevatron since 1996 but I feel like a spring chicken. Many people have been working on the experiment since the early 1980s and a handful from a decade earlier, their allegiance lasting longing than most marriages. Indeed, several marriages have resulted from eyes meeting across a crowded CDF control room.

PhD students have become professors, hair has receded and trouser legs have narrowed, but the quest for new knowledge has stayed firm. CDF has been the source of more than 550 papers, more than any other single experiment in the physical sciences. This year alone, scientists have published 30 papers using its data.

More here. [Thanks to Farrukh Azfar, professor of physics at Oxford University and experimentalist for many, many year at Fermilab. As a bit of indulgence to nostalgia, the photo shows Farrukh, who is my friend from our undergraduate years together at Johns Hopkins University, showing me around at the CDF in July of 2004.]

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