Scientific Opportunity: the Tevatron and the LHC

The press makes much of the competition between CERN’s LHC and Fermilab’s Tevatron in the search for the Higgs boson. This competitive aspect is real, and probably adds spice to the scientific exploration, but for us such reporting often feels like spilling the entire pepper shaker over a fine meal. The media’s emphasis on competition obscures the more important substance of our long-standing collaboration in scientific discovery.

Our laboratories and our communities have worked together for decades. Europeans have contributed greatly to the Tevatron’s many successes, including the discovery of the top quark, the discovery of fast oscillations in the decay of strange B mesons and the many searches for new phenomena. Americans have contributed to many programs at CERN, notably the extraordinary precision measurements of LEP, and more recently construction of the LHC accelerator and detectors. Fermilab scientists played a vital role throughout 2009 in readying the LHC for operation and are now participating in the physics analysis. The LHC is fast establishing itself as a focal point for research at the energy frontier. It is a vital tool for all of us —and the largest high-energy physics program for the US. The rapid rise in luminosity, excellent performance of the LHC computing Grid and the deep understanding of both the LHC accelerator and the detectors are already extraordinary success stories.

The collaboration between our two laboratories spans not only the science and engineering of building accelerators and detectors and analyzing physics, but also education and outreach to the public. For example, Fermilab and CERN take it in turns to run the Collider Physics School, where we train scientists, sharing completely what we know from the long experience at the Tevatron and the new tools developed for the much more complex and powerful detectors at the LHC. Our communication and outreach offices work closely together as part of the InterAction Collaboration with many other labs around the world.

The recent recommendation of the Fermilab Physics Advisory Committee to run the Tevatron for three more years was not aimed at gaining some time advantage for the Tevatron. Rather, the PAC proposed to increase the collective opportunity for our community to understand the central issue of particle physics today: electroweak symmetry breaking. For a very light-mass Higgs around 120 GeV, where the indirect measurements indicate the Higgs should be, the Tevatron--with increased luminosity and time to improve analysis--could add crucial information to the observations at the LHC in the mode that is most difficult for all of us to observe: the Higgs decaying to B and anti-B mesons.

The funding agencies and advisory committees will study and vet this recommendation, guided not by the spirit of competition but by the goal of maximizing the scientific opportunity of our global program within the budget constraints they must work with. Both CERN and Fermilab directors are committed to supporting each other and the global particle physics community in addressing the most important fundamental questions of our era. We are both working to ensure that the spirit of competitive collaboration, unique to science, continues to thrive in particle physics.

Rolf Heuer and Pier Oddone