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.


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."

  • spiral - 2011-09-26 15:33

    funny how scientists have to spend millions of dollars TRYING (without any success) to recreate something that God simply spoke into being...

      JConaPopsickle - 2011-09-26 15:40

      Yup god is way more cost effective. He didn't even spent a cent.

      Telara - 2011-09-26 15:57

      Where's your proof jackass?

      Commi - 2011-09-26 16:00

      funny how religious folk attempt to understand the universe with three letters...

      StBad - 2011-09-26 16:01


      Krush - 2011-09-26 16:15

      @Telara. Where is your proof?

      spiral - 2011-09-26 16:20

      @Commi, funny how people will beleive a theory that is based on a missing link hey... @Telera from Krush... where's yours?

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-26 16:23

      @Krush.. Telaras' proof of what??? Telara didn't make any claims???? Spiral on the other hand, being the good christian that he/she is, has once again tried to provoke an argument with non believers by posting a contraversial (albeit ignorant, and quite frankly plainly stupid) comment. Spiral is the one making claims, so I repeat Telaras' comment... where is your proof???

      Krush - 2011-09-26 16:31

      Funny how non religious people judge religious people because of faith yet have just as much faith in theoretical science. Funny how non religious people think all religious people are ignorant yet only believe in evolution because other people do, despite never having seen or read of any evidence for it, let alone understood the complex theories involved in evolution. As it turns out, evolutionists all believe in primordial soup, but they have no idea what it is, and cannot prove it ever existed. They do not know what chemicals it could have been, and it has never been successfully reproduced in the lab. People are still searching for a way to explain it. Now, whatever you believe in is completely your choice and we are all allowed to voice our opinions, yet when looking at both options available we should all agree that both options require faith. That I cannot prove God to you and that you cannot prove evolution to me. They are both therefore based on faith. Why is it then when a religious person accredits God to creation that the non religious people attack this person instead of discussing their opinion? And often vice versa. Why can't we just agree to have different opinions, however right or wrong they are and in a respectful manner engage each others thoughts.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-26 16:43

      Krush, you miss the point... it is irrelevant whether these scientific "theories" (which, btw, gravity is one of) are correct or not... it would in no way proves your god exists if they ARE all wrong...

      Krush - 2011-09-26 16:44

      ...and just to be quite honest, Spiral is quite correct in saying that the scientists have spent millions of dollars to unsuccessfully recreate something... whether you want to disagree with the "that God simply spoke into being" is fine but the rest is correct and quite honestly, why get so offensive about it? Be defensive by all means, but offensive? Really...surely we're all adults. Why the rudeness?

  • ManofGod - 2011-09-26 16:06

    Science......some people cannot understand that there isn't always a logical (scientific) explanation for everything. Creation is one of these things that Science will never be able to explain. No surprise to me that this elusive God particle has left scientists scratching their heads. No such thing as a God particle but there is a God who created the earth and everything in it.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-26 16:12

      You are right... it's not the "God Particle" but the Higgs-Boson... has nothing to do with any gods or creation whatsoever! P.S. Science HAS already explained creation.. just people like you don't want to accept/believe it!

      Pete - 2011-09-26 16:17

      for centuries, everything not yet understood was attributed to God, even the weather. This list of things is getting smaller and smaller - soon we won't need the concept of God to help explain things

      ManofGod - 2011-09-26 16:21

      God has given everyone a choice, I pray you all make the right one.

      spiral - 2011-09-26 16:24

      @NuttyZA - come now, dont be ignorant. All science has done is base a theory on something that they cannot find, & will never find. @Pete - remember dude, eternity is a long time to be wrong. To each his own... if im wrong one day, then shame on me... if im right, shame on you.

      Pete - 2011-09-26 16:29

      @spiral - are you suggesting that we should hedge our bets - 'cos its sounds like that's what you are doing! Just joking, we are all entitled to our own beliefs - perhaps you are right, one day you'll be looking down and i'll be looking up, and both will be wondering who is having more fun.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-26 16:35

      Spiral, I am not being ignorant, you are... what has the Higgs-Boson got to do with the validity of the Big Bang Theory??? Absolutely nothing!!! The Higgs-Boson is a hypothetical particle, whether or not it exists remains to be seen... if it doesn't, all it means is the standard model of particle physics is wrong. Other models exist which do not require the Higgs-Boson. Point is, it's non existance in no way invalidates the big bang theory nor does it in anyway validate your particular flavour of god!

  • OZNOB - 2011-09-26 16:23

    all very easy to belittle someone elses belief - the scientists ought to be thanked for their contribution to science . and by the way , @ telara could you kindly not be so vulgar when asking some one a question it is unbecoming of you and while you are about it could you prove that God does not exist ? ja my thoughts exactly - it is difficult to prove or disprove it and has alot to do with faith and belief. I know I may be wrong though that is my humble opinion

  • SNOTKOP - 2011-09-26 18:22

    To all the non believers in God. Answer these questions 1.Do you know everything...and I mean everything there is to know in this universe? 2. Do you know at least half of everything there is to know? In making my point lets assume you know half of everything there is to know in the universe, OK. If God does not exist in this half that you know everything about, do you think it`s possible that God could exist in the other half you know nothing about?

      Epicurius - 2011-09-26 18:39

      Snotkop - You don't even seem very sure yourself. There's hope for your shackled mind yet. You seem to acknowledge there is no sign of a god in this part of the known universe. Or are you saying he is just not omnipresent? So he is somewhere else, omnipotent maybe, but not present here in our neck of the woods? Did you even think for a minute before making that post?

      daaivark - 2011-09-27 09:46

      I just think the entire debate is pointless. It makes no difference to my everyday life to know whether a god exists or not. I make my own deicsions based on my analysis of things I see, and find that a whole lot more satisfying than if they were based on whether I was going to be spanked and tossed into a firey pit or not.

      daaivark - 2011-09-27 09:46

      "decisions" - sorry.

  • SNOTKOP - 2011-09-26 19:32

    @ Epicurius Actually I do believe in God the Father,Son & Holy Ghost. In my tiny part of the total knowledge spectrum a God thus exists for me. I`m trying to point out to other people who are non-believers in God that we individually, actually know very little and that they should contemplate the existence of God outside of their frame of reference or knowledge. How come we know right from wrong if there is no God? a bit further reading for non-believers on y-origins, dot, com.

      Epicurius - 2011-09-27 10:10

      @ SnotKop - There are many other logical explanations of how and why morality developed in humans (and in animals) which make the idea of it relying purely on God nothing short of pitifully naive. God does not have the copyright on morality and that is what you need to contemplate outside your religious frame of reference. You are correct that we know relatively very little of what we have the potential to know. However, to jump to the conclusion that this means there is a God is illogical / fallacious. If you cannot explain to me why an ever present, all powerful, all knowing and loving god would allow evil acts to be committed, or allow natural disasters to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people then you have no valid reason to believe a loving, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient god exists. And I am looking for something a lot more substantial and less vacuous than 'God is so mysterious, we can't hope to ever understand him'. If a higher power exists, what created this higher power? And who's to say this higher power even knows our name or cares what we think or if we blaspheme against the 'holy spirit'? Why would such a higher power choose to observe human evolution for millions of years, then only choose to intervene during the past few thousand years by coming down as himself to sacrifice himself for a 'sin' he orchestrated? Try that on for size SnotKop. And after that, try googling a piece by Carl Sagan called 'The Dragon In My Garage'.

  • theelderz - 2011-09-26 20:00

    actually for my own knowledge I wanted to find out is it evolution that the vagina is not on the stomach.Apparently the vagina's positioning is meant for accessibilty by male organs, or again I may just be wrong.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-27 09:30

      WTF???? why the hell would the vagina be more accessible on a womans stomach??? Think you have very strange ideas about anatomy!!! Anyway, the vagina is where it is, because that's where it is on animals that walk on all fours... if people do it doggy style, the vagina is in a perfectly logical position... just MORE evidence that humans evolved from animals which walked on four legs to animals which are bipedal!

      daaivark - 2011-09-27 09:47

      What on earth does that have to do with anything? Is it just because you want to talk about vaginas? How juvenile.

  • John Harris - 2011-09-26 21:39

    One sign... Why can't any of these gods just give one sign? With todays technology it would be on You Tube in a flash and you'd have a planet of believers. How about a great fiery finger writing in the sky... Should be easy for the creator of everything. Must be terrible wanting to believe in something so badly and only having some ancient ramblings to base it on.

  • Dusky - 2011-09-27 22:09

    All you religious folk should do some research... and i am speaking about the two largest, loudest most corrupt religions!! Both based on a much older religion, just watered down and edited to serve human aspirations of power and control over the masses. Keep your blinkers on and walk past on your misguided path... you are not spreading the "love" as you would us believe.... just irritation and anger.So do the "religious" thing and let "us"(followers of fact) walk out path in "We" would gladly leave "you" in piece on your path(As misguided as it may be!!!) Light and Love ......

  • pages:
  • 1