Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Tevatron in 2009

This Symmetry Breaking article gives a very good summary of a very good year at the old dame of experimental high energy physics - the Tevatron at Fermilab. This workhorse of a collider has had a banner year in 2009, producing a number of significant results and refinement, even if it did not find one of the Holy Grail of elementary particle physics - the Higgs boson.

The experiments have made good use of the torrent of data. In 2009, they published over 100 scientific papers and presented more than 150 new results at physics conferences all over the world. Major highlights include the discovery of the production of single top quarks in the first observation of this extremely rare process. The collaborations made the world’s most precise measurement of the top-quark and W-boson masses with a precision of less than one per cent and one per mille, respectively; and they observed and studied new particles containing b quarks. By combining their data, the CDF and DZero experiments also reached important new conclusions on the possible mass of the proposed Higgs particle, now excluding a mass range near that of twice the mass of the W boson (162-166 GeV/c2).

For people who are not familiar with high energy physics experiments, note one very important thing. The Tevatron isn't just a one-purpose experiment. In other words, even though one of the main reason for its operation is to search for the Higgs, it also provides results in many other important studies of elementary particle physics. No one, and certainly no govt. agency, would fun a multi-billion dollar facility JUST to look for one thing. That's insane and not something anyone can justify spending.

So the same can be said about the LHC. While it certainly would like to hunt for the Higgs, it has a rich set of physics that it can do. And that's just what is expected! No one would be surprise if the LHC produces a lot of unexpected results and observations. That, in itself, is why high energy physicists are excited, regardless of whether they find the Higgs or not.


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