WBEZ | Particle Physics http://www.wbez.org/tags/particle-physics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A final lap for Fermilab's particle collider http://www.wbez.org/story/final-lap-fermilabs-particle-collider-92629 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-29/lab model.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Scientists at west suburban Fermilab will pull the plug Friday on their giant particle collider, the Tevatron.</p><p>When it began crashing particles together in 1985, the Tevatron became the world’s most powerful atom smasher. It revealed two of the 12 fundamental particles thought to make up the universe and offered clues to great mystery, such as why the universe is filled with matter instead of antimatter.</p><p>But last year Europe’s Large Hadron Collider overtook it, and the U.S. government denied a request to continue funding Fermilab’s machine for three more years.</p><p>Scientists who worked on the Tevatron say its ending is bittersweet.</p><p>“There is a certain sadness that ths wonderful story is coming to an end,” said Fermilab director Pier Oddone. “But this is really a celebration. This has been such a wonderful run. I wish the Large Hadron Collider in Europe to have as rich a life as the Tevatron has had here.”</p><p>Fermilab will still be crunching data from the Tevatron for at least another two years. Later, officials hope to build a new machine that would produce record numbers of particles, though at lower energies. Fermilab will also continue its programs in neutrino research and astrophysics.</p></p> Fri, 30 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/final-lap-fermilabs-particle-collider-92629 Clever Apes #19: Godspeed, Tevatron http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-09-27/clever-apes-19-godspeed-tevatron-92526 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-28/AP03072905770.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="(WBEZ / Michael De Bonis)" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-27/Tevatron%20Memorial%20USE%20THIS%20ONE%20%282%29.png" style="width: 550px; height: 480px;" title="(WBEZ / Michael De Bonis)"></p><p>The <a href="http://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/accelerator/">Tevatron particle collider </a>shut down in September of 2011. Once the highest-energy collide in the world, it is survived by its descendants, the <a href="http://www.bnl.gov/rhic/">Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider </a>at Brookhaven, and the <a href="http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/LHC-en.html">Large Hadron Collider </a>at CERN. The Tevatron was 28.</p><p>If ever a machine was deserving of an obituary, it is the Tevatron. Housed at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, the Tevatron spent decades at the frontier of science. Its collisions offered glimpses into nature’s secret places, on the tiniest scales and highest energies ever probed.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 8px;">Listen to the episode: </span></strong></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Clever_Apes_19_Godspeed_Tevatron.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-117208">Clever_Apes_19_Godspeed_Tevatron.mp3</span></p><p>But last year the frontier moved off the Illinois prairie, over to Europe, where the LHC has dwarfed the Tevatron into obsolescence. Nearly anything the Tevatron could do, the LHC can do better. And so the government pulled the plug, with the Tevatron going dark on Friday, September 30. In this installment of Clever Apes, we take a moment to <a href="http://www.fnal.gov/pub/tevatron/milestones/interactive-timeline.html">remember the good times </a>– the <a href="http://www.hep.princeton.edu/mumu/nuphys/072100sci-atoms-neutrinos.html">tau neutrinos</a>, the <a href="http://tomato.fnal.gov/ops/records.php">luminosity records</a>, the <a href="http://today.slac.stanford.edu/feature/matter-antimatter-oscillations.asp">strange-B oscillations</a> … and of course, the one thing normal people may have actually heard of, the <a href="http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/cms/?pid=1000085">top quark</a>. That was the Tevatron’s high water mark, discovering the linchpin of the <a href="http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Science/StandardModel-en.html">Standard Model </a>– a kind of periodic table of fundamental particles and forces.</p><p><img alt="The control room crew runs all of Fermilab's big machines. (WBEZ / Gabriel Spitz" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-27/Control room.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="The control room crew runs all of Fermilab's big machines. (WBEZ / Gabriel Spitzer)"></p><p>And we consider the real value of basic science. Quarks don’t end recessions. Neutrino oscillations aren’t going to solve global warming. But there are a few benefits that belong on the balance sheet in the Teavtron’s favor. One is that, like NASA, pushing at the boundaries of our knowledge tends to bring ancillary benefits. In Fermilab’s case, <a href="http://scienceinsociety.northwestern.edu/content/articles/2008/schellman/from-a-physicists-mind">magnetic resonance imaging </a>(MRI) and <a href="http://www.protons.com/proton-therapy/">specialized radiation therapy </a>for cancer are part of the accelerator’s lineage.</p><p>But more basic than that, is that this kind of research into the nature of nature seems like part of the human condition – lab director Pier Oddone calls it the “inquiry gene.” Another Fermilab director – founder Robert Wilson – said it incredibly eloquently in 1969. He was <a href="http://history.fnal.gov/testimony.html">testifying before Congress, </a>and it feels so appropriate for this week that I include it here in its entirety:</p><p>SENATOR PASTORE. Is there anything connected in the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of the country?</p><p>DR. WILSON. No, sir; I do not believe so.</p><p>SENATOR PASTORE. Nothing at all?</p><p>DR. WILSON. Nothing at all.</p><p>SENATOR PASTORE. It has no value in that respect?</p><p>DR. WILSON. It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has nothing to do with the military. I am sorry.</p><p>SENATOR PASTORE. Don't be sorry for it.</p><p>DR. WILSON. I am not, but I cannot in honesty say it has any such application.</p><p>SENATOR PASTORE. Is there anything here that projects us in a position of being competitive with the Russians, with regard to this race?</p><p>DR. WILSON. Only from a long-range point of view, of a developing technology. Otherwise, it has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country, but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.</p><p><img alt="Fermilab's Wilson Hall rises above the Illinois prairie. (WBEZ / Gabriel Spitzer" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-27/IMG_1245.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="Fermilab's Wilson Hall rises above the Illinois prairie. (WBEZ / Gabriel Spitzer)"></p></p> Tue, 27 Sep 2011 22:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-09-27/clever-apes-19-godspeed-tevatron-92526 New particle, if proved, could be a "huge revolution" http://www.wbez.org/story/disaster/2011-04-09/new-particle-if-proved-could-be-huge-revolution-84984 <p><p>Scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory said this week a "bump" in their data may be evidence of a new subatomic particle — one that could change our understanding of modern physics.</p><p>Emphasis on "could. "</p><p>"I really can't emphasize that enough," physicist Brian Greene tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. Greene, who was not involved in the research, says scientists at Fermilab are still culling more data from their experiments.</p><p>"But if it isn't something that can be washed away through more refined data," Greene says, "this would be a huge revolution."</p><p><strong>So, What Is It? </strong></p><p>As for what the particle might be, scientists are still speculating.</p><p>One possibility is that the particle may be evidence of a new force of nature, one that operates in only the shortest of distances between subatomic particles in individual atoms. For physicists, that's exciting news.</p><p>"We have spent many, many years investigating the known forces, and we understand them very well," Greene says. Those known forces are things like gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces that govern the motion of an atom.</p><p>But this new force, Greene says, "would suggest other processes that so far we have not yet seen."</p><p><strong>A Collider's Last Crash</strong></p><p>It's no accident those forces — if they exist — are still undiscovered. They're "hidden," Greene says, and it takes a massive particle collider like Fermilab's Tevatron to ferret them out.</p><p>The collider, a 4-mile-long circular track, works by running subatomic particles along that track and slamming them together at speeds very near the speed of light.</p><p>It's in the wreckage of those collisions, Greene says, that scientists "probe matter under the most extreme circumstances to try to reveal things we couldn't find in everyday life."</p><p>But the Tevatron — the machine that produces those collisions — is expected to close in September due to federal budget cuts. That gives researchers some time to work on replicating their results. But Greene isn't optimistic a new discovery there would encourage officials to keep it open.</p><p>At the Tevatron, he says, "we've learned about particles that make up the tiniest bits of the universe, quarks. We've learned about forces of nature. We've pushed technology to its limits in building these very machines.</p><p>"This really has been a force in American science, and it is a profound loss for it to be shut down."</p><p><strong>Replicating the Bump</strong></p><p>Meanwhile, reaction to Fermilab's results has been greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism from the physics community.</p><p>Those results challenge what's known as the Standard Model, a mathematical theory Greene says has been able to describe "every single result from any experiment from any accelerator around the world for decades.</p><p>"To now see that perhaps it's not right is exciting," he says, "but also has to be viewed with a very critical eye."</p><p>That will mean replicating Fermilab's results not only at the Tevatron, but also at other colliders around the world, such as the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.</p><p>"That machine would really have the possibility to either show that it's right or wipe it out and show that it's wrong."</p><p>So if the bump is proved? Greene, a string theorist, would have a lot of new work to do. String theory, he says, relies on the idea that there are unknown forces of nature in the universe.</p><p>"I've spent my entire career imagining this very day," he says. "To have something pointing in a direction beyond the status-quo? That would be incredibly exciting." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Sat, 09 Apr 2011 09:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/disaster/2011-04-09/new-particle-if-proved-could-be-huge-revolution-84984 Glimpse of a new force of nature at Fermilab http://www.wbez.org/story/fermilab/glimpse-new-force-nature-fermilab-84837 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-06/CDF detector.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Scientists at west suburban Fermilab are abuzz today about <a href="http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1104/1104.0699v1.pdf">a tiny hiccup</a> in some experimental data. It could be nothing, or it could be a new force of nature.</p><p>The results come from the lab’s Tevatron collider – due to shut down this year for lack of funding. When particles crash into each other inside the Tevatron, they produce a spray of other particles. Now scientists are <a href="http://blogs.uslhc.us/a-hint-of-something-new-in-wdijets-at-cdf">seeing pieces of subatomic shrapnel</a> that don’t make sense, unless there’s a brand-new mystery particle there.&nbsp;</p><p>If so, it could be “new physics” – a basic change in the standard model of what makes up the universe.</p><p>“So if this really holds up, this would be part of a family of new things that should reveal us the layer of physics beyond what we know today,” said Giovanni Punzi, a spokesman for the CDF collaboration, which published the results. “So that’s why everybody’s so excited.”</p><p>The results could be evidence of a new fundamental force, joining gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.</p><p>There’s still a quarter-percent possibility it’s just a statistical glitch, which leaves these results far short of what physicists consider a true discovery. The researchers expect to have a good deal more data by the time Tevatron shuts down, likely this fall. In any case, the more powerful Large Hadron Collider in Europe should be able to nail down the new particle, if it exists, with direction from the Fermilab research.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 06 Apr 2011 20:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/fermilab/glimpse-new-force-nature-fermilab-84837 Feds cut off funding for Fermilab's big collider http://www.wbez.org/story/fermilab/feds-cut-funding-femilabs-big-collider <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/IMG_1250.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;The director of west suburban Fermilab says he&rsquo;s disappointed about having to shut down the facility&rsquo;s massive particle collider. But he says the lab, and the government, now need to shift priorities.</p><p>The Tevatron collider was the world&rsquo;s most powerful, until the European Large Hadron Collider eclipsed it just over a year ago. Fermilab officials still wanted to run the Tevatron for three more years, and they asked the federal government for about $100 million. Yesterday, lab director Pier Oddone found out the Department of Energy turned them down.</p><p>&ldquo;In this atmosphere, asking for more funding is not the thing that people are looking for,&rdquo; Oddone says. &ldquo;You would do better volunteering cuts.&rdquo;</p><p>Oddone says retiring the collider will directly affect about 100 jobs, though the number of layoffs will depend on the next federal budget.</p><p>Oddone says the lab will push forward in other areas, like the behavior of rare particles and the search for dark matter. Among the discoveries during its 26-year run, the Tevatron helped identify the top quark, a basic building block of atoms.</p><p>Read a copy of the <a href="http://bit.ly/f8NDVA">DOE's letter explaining their decision</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Listen to an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/fermilab-explores-new-physics-frontier">earlier story on the change of direction for Fermilab</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Jan 2011 23:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/fermilab/feds-cut-funding-femilabs-big-collider