Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 26  |  November 2003  |  Number 15
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Happy Anniversary, Tevatron!

by Mike Witherell

Mike Witherell I remember well waiting for news of the first beam from the Energy Doubler, later to be known as the Tevatron. I was working with a group of about 35 physicists writing a proposal to do the first high-statistics, low-background charm experiment using the new technology of silicon microstrip detectors. We planned to use the higher energy photon beam that could be made starting with 800 GeV protons from the Tevatron. The news in the summer of 1983 that 512 GeV protons were produced gave us great encouragement that a superconducting accelerator would really work. Meanwhile Fermilab was breaking ground for the Antiproton Source, getting ready to start a new program based on antiproton-proton collisions inside the Tevatron.

In the twenty years since those record-setting protons were extracted from the Tevatron, thousands of physicists have advanced our understanding of nature using this spectacularly successful instrument. The top quark was the signature discovery that justified by itself the initial investment. But physicists also used the Tevatron to observe the first tau neutrinos, to measure proton structure with muons and neutrinos, to understand the nature of CP violation in K meson decays, to measure the lifetimes of particles containing charm and bottom quarks, and to search for new physics at the highest energies.

Today, the Tevatron is still the highest-energy accelerator in the world. We are now operating the Tevatron at a luminosity 40 times its initial design value, and we'll see further improvements. The accelerator is today the only operational machine to study top quarks and W bosons. The CDF and DZero collaborations will be studying data samples from Run II that are fifty times as large as in Run I. They will use these samples to look for the next big discovery— supersymmetry, extra dimensions, or something that we have not imagined yet.

The Tevatron is also a superb instrument for exploring the properties of Fermilab's first great discovery—the bottom quark. CDF and DZero are the only experiments able to look at properties of the Bs meson, not well studied because it is inaccessible at the B-factories. The new BTeV experiment will push the study of B physics to new levels of sensitivity, orders of magnitude beyond current experiments. It will keep the Tevatron at the frontier of science ten years from now.

For twenty years the Tevatron has helped us to understand the nature of the universe we live in—and it continues to do so.

COVER PHOTO: The Main Control Room on Sunday, July 3, at 3:37 p.m. as the Tevatron accelerated protons to 512 GeV, a new world record for accelerators. - Photo by Fred Ullrich

On the Web:

Discoveries at Fermilab

The Tevatron Fixed-Target Program

Fermilab Experiments

last modified 11/3/2003   email Fermilab