The end of a remarkable era

An important era in particle physics is coming to an end: the US Department of Energy announced on Monday that it will not fund an extension to Tevatron running beyond 2011. It is a poignant moment for particle physics as we prepare to bid farewell to a machine that has changed our view of the Universe, and played a significant role in paving the way for the new era that is opening up with the LHC.


The Tevatron has been at the high-energy frontier of particle physics for over a quarter of a century. That’s a remarkable achievement by any account, and the physics results are there to prove it. As well as bringing us the discovery of the top quark in 1995, the Tevatron’s experiments have provided vitally important precision measurements covering the full spectrum of Standard Model physics, not to mention hints of what may lie beyond. With several months of running still to come, it would be a foolish gambler who bet against further new physics emerging before the Tevatron’s last beams are extracted in the autumn.

Custodianship of the high-energy frontier passed to CERN at the end of 2009 when LHC collision energies surpassed those of the Tevatron for the first time. Exciting though this is for CERN, I am ever mindful of the help that Fermilab has given us over the years in achieving that milestone, and that Tevatron scientists continue to bring to the LHC programme thanks to their decades of experience.

The fates and missions of CERN and Fermilab have always been firmly intertwined, and this week’s decision does nothing to change that. This year, I will be working closely with Pier Oddone and other lab directors to define a global vision for particle physics, and we’ll be discussing that subject at the ICFA seminar here at CERN in October. Part of that vision is clear already – there is more than one important frontier in the quest to explore the particle world. While the LHC is currently the world’s energy frontier facility, Fermilab has long made it clear that its post-Tevatron strategy would be to pursue the intensity frontier. On past record, we can expect another trail blazing performance, and I wish the lab every success as it moves on to this challenging and vital next phase.

Rolf Heuer