Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, July 23, 1999  |  Number 14
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Fermilab Users MEET THE FUTURE

by Judy Jackson

University of Nebraska physicist Greg Snow, chair of the Users' Executive Committee, organized this year's Users' Annual Meeting. At their annual meeting on July 6 and 7, Fermilab's users expressed widely differing views on many topics, but on one subject they were nearly unanimous: it was the best users' meeting in years--maybe the best one ever.

"It was a great meeting," said University of Chicago physicist Ed Blucher, a KTeV collaborator. "The focus on the future was good, and we had a lively and interesting exchange of views."

Users praised the event's organization by Users" Executive Committee Chair Greg Snow and meeting organizer Dan Amidei. What made it such a good meeting, many said, was the opportunity to come together and begin to talk about the things on everyone"s minds: excitement and optimism about Run II, shadowed by concerns about what will come next, both for Fermilab and for U.S. particle physics. The meeting's first day, devoted to a discussion of the future, was a chance to speculate about discoveries that may lie just ahead in what many see as a golden age for physics at Fermilab in the next few years. It was also an opening dialogue in what promises to be a long, continuing conversation about the future of high-energy physics in the United States.

The meeting provided the first opportunity for Fermilab users to hear formally from the Laboratory's new director, Mike Witherell. In his opening remarks, Witherell told users he is excited to be at Fermilab, "a laboratory with a remarkable record that has changed the way we look at the structure of the world around us." He cited the central physics questions that confront the field--supersymmetry, a Standard Model Higgs boson, the discovery of "something else," CP violation and neutrino mass--and noted that "Fermilab is addressing all these important issues with experiments that are the best or among the best in the world."

The director repeatedly stressed that the Laboratory's highest priority is getting the collider detectors CDF and DZero ready for Run II as well and as quickly as possible.

"The best chance for a discovery in the next six-plus years that would change the direction of particle physics is at the Tevatron," Witherell said. "Our challenge now is to advance the field of high-energy physics and to make sure that Fermilab has a future. The two are closely linked. High-energy physics will prosper if Fermilab does."

Witherell was among many speakers who regretfully acknowledged a current lack of support in Washington for construction of a major new facility for high-energy physics. He shared with users some of the difficulty of obtaining new federal funding and emphasized the importance of communicating the value of particle physics research to legislators.

"I know my congressman, Dennis Hastert, was up here on this stage a couple of weeks ago saying that Fermilab was his highest priority," Witherell said. "So let's see what you can do with yours."

The Department of Energy"s Peter Rosen quoted a recent Science article by James Glanz, to ask "Will the Higgs Particle Make an Early Entrance?" Rosen, along with nearly everyone in the audience, clearly hoped so--and via the Tevatron"s front door.

"Dove vai, cacciatore di quark?" (Where are you going, quark hunter?) Rosen asked, referring to a 1996 headline from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which in turn paraphrased a line from the opera Don Giovanni, on the discovery of the top quark at Fermilab. "V cercando la giugulare," was Rosen"s response, identifying the jugular with the Higgs boson, in perhaps the meeting"s most colorful metaphor. Rosen also noted the "sticker shock" from a recent review at SLAC of the proposed future linear collider, at which the cost of the NLC was estimated at nearly $8 billion. Rosen said the NLC"s cost would need to be reduced by 25 to 50 percent before the machine could receive serious consideration.

Fermilab theorist Chris Quigg took up the theme of a possible Higgs discovery if the Tevatron can achieve a high enough number of collisions in Run II.

"It's fine to build exclusion plots," Quigg said. "It's even better to find stuff. And there's lots of opportunity to find stuff. If we can achieve 30 inverse femtobarns [a measure of collision number] before the LHC turns on, there is a real possibility for a light Higgs. Once you get higher luminosity, you get the possibility of a discovery that will change the agenda of high-energy physics.... I believe that what is claimed for the Tevatron"s ability to discover a Higgs with a mass up to 130 GeV might actually extend to 180 GeV, although 130 is more certain. All the indications are for a light Higgs."

Looking farther ahead, Quigg discussed the strengths and challenges offered by each of the three most frequently proposed options for future U.S. accelerators: the NLC, a muon collider, and a very large hadron collider. He emphasized the importance of responding to discoveries in planning for the future of particle physics research.

"Nimbleness is the key for Fermilab and for the field," he said. "Today's science influences tomorrow's engineering."

Physicist Paul Grannis of the State University of New York proposed a series of "Circle Line" workshops, a sort of traveling Chatauqua on future accelerators, to explore the various options for future machines.

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center"s director-designate, Jonathan Dorfan, addressed the users by videotape, assuring them that he would be thinking of them from his poolside location in Tuscany, where he is vacationing before taking up his new duties. Dorfan wished his colleague Witherell "a long and successful sojourn at Fermilab" and said that SLAC and Fermilab must collaborate, rather than duplicate each other"s efforts, for U.S. high-energy physics to succeed. He extended an enthusiastic welcome to Fermilab scientists to collaborate in work on the Next Linear Collider, one of the options under consideration as a possible future U.S. accelerator.

"Business as usual will not work," Dorfan said. "I pledge to work with you."

Following more detailed presentations on each of the future accelerator options, a panel took the stage to discuss the future, and users took the opportunity to raise questions and express their views.

Panelist and Cornell physicist David Cassell stressed the need to reach consensus about the future of particle physics--a consensus, he said, that he does not yet sense. As ways of reaching consensus, Cassell suggested honest consideration, increased R&D on future accelerators, and workshops for all, "including skeptics."

Skeptics there were aplenty, including University of Michigan physicist Dick Gustafson who, later in the meeting, asked bluntly, "Is the fix in? Has it already been decided that the NLC will be the next machine?"

Witherell responded.

"The fix is not in," he said. "Fermilab needs to be in on the decision process of what comes next. We need to do that work. The community does not yet have a consensus. But we will need to make an up or down decision on the NLC relatively soon."

Fermilab physicist Jim Strait asked if SLAC scientists would be joining accelerator R&D efforts now underway on muon colliders and the options for a future VLHC. Witherell replied that they had been invited.

The auditorium grew quiet as Harvard University"s Melissa Franklin stood to ask a question.

"It's well known," Franklin said, "that lab directors have too much power. Meanwhile universities are struggling. What are you going to do about that?"

"Well," said Witherell, who until the previous week had been a university professor himself, "I used to think lab directors had too much power, too."

The room dissolved in laughter, including Franklin's, and the meeting adjourned.

last modified 7/23/1999   email Fermilab