In 2004, Fermilab Today published 50 Results of the Week. But is it possible to pick the most outstanding one, proclaiming the Result of the Year? Could a group of scientists actually agree on a single result? Who would be qualified and could make an unbiased decision?
In January, the ten postdocs of the Fermilab Theory Group agreed to the difficult task of selecting the best of the best. To avoid any bias, the postdocs proceeded to select the most outstanding experimental result. Separately, the group of ten reviewed the list of candidates. Then they met at the Users' Center to discuss the merits of all contenders. The group hadn't even finished the first round of drinks when they all agreed on the winner: the measurement of the quantity Vus by the KTeV experiment.
"At the beginning of our meeting, we had a discussion whether one could single out one result," said Zack Sullivan, the senior postdoc of the group. "We thought that all results were impressive. But when we began to compare our individual notes, the KTeV result was number one on everyone's list."
The quantity Vus describes the coupling of s quarks to u quarks. Before the KTeV measurement, the value of Vus was based on averages of dozens of experiments done over a 40-year period. According to the report of the theory postdocs, "the new measurement of Vus by the KTeV collaboration solved a mini-unitarity crisis in the CKM matrix. The KTeV collaboration was able to significantly reduce the overall uncertainty, and found a Vus that agrees within one sigma of the prediction of unitarity."
Encouraged by their quick decision -- and with some beer left in the pitcher -- the postdocs went ahead to determine a runner-up.
"At some level, we discussed all 2004 Results of the Week," said Sullivan. "But the second place again was pretty clear: the measurement of Bc is the first clear test of lattice QCD."
Both DZero and CDF reported Bc results in December 2004, which were announced in Fermilab Today within a day of each other.
The competition for third place was fierce. Ultimately, the observation of a Z boson decaying to two tau leptons won out. The next two places were awarded to the first measurement of the Z plus b jet cross section at a hadron collider, and the measurement of the angular correlation of dijets. Details are given in the Result of the Year summary report provided by Zack Sullivan.
The members of the 2004 Result of the Year committee are: Ayres Freitas, Ulrich Haisch, Jack Laiho, Olga Mena, Masataka Okamoto, Jose Santiago, Peter Skands, Zack Sullivan, and Giulia Zanderighi.