Big US physics era ending

2011-09-26 15:20
Batavia - The era of big American physics ends on Friday with the retirement of the Tevatron particle accelerator, which has been recreating the Big Bang under 6.4km of Illinois prairie for 25 years.

The Tevatron has been rendered obsolete by a more powerful atom smasher - the world's largest - built in the Alps on the French-Swiss border by the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern), a consortium of 20 member nations.

It seems unlikely that the US, which once dominated the field and reaped the rewards of discoveries and technological innovations, will be able to muster the resources to build the next big particle physics project.

Long-term funding is simply too hard to come by.

Instead, American physicists will concentrate on more precise - and less expensive - questions at home and work with Cern on high-energy projects like the search for the elusive 'God' particle.

Difficult time

"In our field we don't keep beating our heads if we have been outdone by another machine," said Pier Oddone, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which operates the Tevatron.

"The idea is we shift to those areas where we can make the greatest contributions to understanding," Oddone said.

"Sometimes the biggest discoveries come from smaller projects."

The Tevatron's retirement comes at a difficult time for American science.

Nasa flew its last space shuttle mission in July.

Government funding is being squeezed by a deep economic downturn and bitter budget battles on Capitol Hill.

And science itself has become politicised, with disbelief in evolution and human contribution to global warming now a litmus test for Republicans hoping to win the support of the party's conservative base.

Contributions


Fermi's scientists say they cannot predict what the US will lose by ceding high-energy physics to Europe.

The gains from Tevatron are far easier to quantify.

"The Tevatron has made phenomenal contributions to particle physics," said Cern's director general Rolf Heuer.

"Top of the list has to be the discovery of the top quark in 1995, but there are many more."

While expanding our understanding of the fundamental mysteries of the universe is a worthy accomplishment, the Tevatron has also led to a host of more concrete advances.

At the top of that list is the widespread use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines for medical diagnosis.

The superconducting wires used in MRI magnets were rare and prohibitively expensive until Fermilab essentially created an industry with Tevatron's demand for enough wire to circle the earth 2.3 times.

New projects


"No one imagined that there would be spinoffs that would eventually be important for saving your wife's life or your daughter's life or your grandmother's life through this medical imaging, yet that's exactly what happened," said Stuart Henderson, Fermilab's associate director for accelerators.

The next big discoveries at Fermilab could come from three new projects being funded in part by the $50m that used to be spent every year on the Tevatron.

Scientists are currently building a dark energy camera, which will be able to scan the galaxy faster than any other telescope and aims to discover why the expansion of the universe is speeding up instead of slowing down.

They are also constructing the world's most powerful neutrino beam, which could help explain why the universe has more matter than antimatter and expand our understanding of its most abundant particles.

Project X - if it secures funding - aims to be the world's most intense proton accelerator.

"We're in a position here in the United States to really cement our leading role on unravelling the intensity frontier and Project X really provides a platform for us to do that over the next 20 to 30 years," Henderson said.

"If the US does not, I'm sure someone will pick it up and do it for us."
- SAPA
Read more on:    cern  |  science
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
30 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

 
 

Men24.com

Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Hot festive offers at kalahari.com!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a time....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.