“By early 2011, [Fermilab’s Tevatron] will have recorded enough data to either find the Higgs or rule it out. -New Scientist, August 2009
Sure, there’s a whole lot of well-deserved hoopla about the LHC, the world’s #1 particle accelerator in terms of energy! But don’t forget about #2, Fermilab’s Tevatron, which also holds the honor of being the first place I ever worked in physics!
Fermilab has been operating since the 1970s, and has been responsible for many of the most outstanding discoveries in the history of particle physics. Remember the standard model?
The standard model tells us that the most fundamental things in nature are the things that make up normal matter (six quarks and six leptons), the things that carry forces (the four gauge bosons), and the thing that gives everything else mass (the Higgs). This was first proposed and worked out in the late 1960s/early 1970s by Steven Weinberg and others, and has been the most rigorously verified physical theory ever!
How has Fermilab helped? For starters, Fermilab’s was the accelerator where the bottom quark, top quark, and tau neutrino were discovered. It’s the place where CP-violation, an intrinsic difference between matter and antimatter (and the thing that allows our Universe to have more matter than antimatter), was first directly observed, and it’s the only place that’s ever precisely measured the masses, lifetimes and widths — or intrinsic uncertainty of masses — of the highest energy particles in the Universe.
Not a bad career at all! But Fermilab isn’t done yet, not by any stretch. You see, Fermilab — much like Aesop’s tortoise — still has a shot to win the race to find the Higgs!
Although they’re “only” colliding particles at 2 TeV (as opposed to 7 TeV for the LHC), Fermilab’s detectors are very sensitive to the signatures that a Higgs boson will leave behind. By 2011, the Tevatron (the name of the accelerator at Fermilab) will have enough events that it should either find evidence for the Higgs boson…
…or it should be able to declare that no evidence was found for the Higgs, and it can start placing real, meaningful limits towards ruling it out! In fact, thanks to Fermilab, we can already say that if the Higgs exists, it isn’t in the mass range below. (Image credit: Gregorio Bernardi.)
So by the end of 2011, just from Fermilab (regardless of what the LHC does), we should find the Higgs if it’s lighter than the top quark! (And, FYI, our theories say it should be.)
Fermilab’s been at this a long time, and while the LHC is getting all the press, they’re not the only ones in the race! And just so you don’t forget, here’s a link to the Fermilab rap music video; enjoy!