Rumors of Fermilab's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Though Fermilab's largest particle accelerator has been shut down, the lab is healthy and thriving, and will be around for a long time to come.

So there’s another rumor I’ve heard lately, one I’m happy to dispel. Fermilab is not closing down.

I’m going to repeat that: Fermilab is not closing down. I’ve heard whispers of our demise many times, from people in several of our neighboring communities, and it isn’t true. Here at Fermilab, we have numerous projects in the works, and our current plans will see new experiments built as far out as 2025. We’ll be around a long, long time.

In case you’ve heard those rumors, as well, let me tell you the reason for the confusion. Last year, we shut down the Tevatron, our largest and most powerful particle accelerator. What people don’t realize, though, is that the Tevatron was just one of several accelerators on site here, and the rest — including one that’s two miles around — are still operational.

But the Tevatron was definitely the biggest. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s essentially a huge ring, about four miles around, built about 25 feet underground. We used it to speed up tiny particles and ram them into each other, so we could see what came out of those collisions.

And over the 28 years the Tevatron was in operation, scientists here found quite a few interesting things. You can read more about the legacy of the Tevatron here, but highlights include discovering the top quark — a subatomic particle that had never been observed before — and providing a ton of evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson. (You may have heard about that.)

The Tevatron had a long and glorious run helping scientists around the world explore energy, matter, space and time, and everyone at Fermilab was sad to see it go. When the Large Hadron Collider powered up at CERN in Switzerland, the Tevatron’s days were numbered — the LHC is about 10 times more powerful, and it now stands as the biggest and best high-energy physics machine in the world.

But the demise of the Tevatron doesn’t mean the demise of Fermilab. Though the LHC now rules the high-energy game, there are other frontiers of particle physics, and Fermilab is still leading the way. Right now, we’re building three major projects, all of which will address cutting-edge research questions. (I’ll tell you all about them in future blog posts.) And many more are on the drawing board.

Yes, budgets are tight. They’re tight everywhere. But basic research, the kind we do here every day, remains a vital investment. We’re searching for the answers to the fundamental questions about our existence, the origins of our universe, and the mysteries of the cosmos. And along the way, we’ve contributed to some important practical innovations, including new forms of cancer therapy, accelerators that are used in everything from hospitals to semi-conductor factories, and even the launch of the World Wide Web in the United States.

Fermilab is in the midst of retooling our accelerator complex, doubling the beam power and getting ready for a new generation of fascinating experiments. We plan to start up the complex again next spring, beginning the next chapter in Fermilab’s long story, and there are plenty of pages left to write.

So I think it’s important to put an end to this rumor. If anyone tells you Fermilab is shutting down, have them call me at 630-840-3351. And you’re always welcome to come to the lab, take a tour, and talk to us. We’ll be right here.


Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. You can reach him at asalles@fnal.gov or by calling 630-840-3351.

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Bernie Shwayder November 13, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I felt sad when the Tevatron closed down for the last time, but never for a moment thought Fermilab would too. I've been reading Symmetry for a long time, and you always had tons going on. I knew there was too much happening and Fermi would be on the top of the heap of important research facilities far into the future. I was correct!
Lou B. November 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Of course they are not shutting down, Bailout Bill Foster has been reelected to Congress by Obama voters. Look for another 100M of YOUR taxpayer dollars to go to this giant Democrat welfare program. I was at a MoveOn.org meeting in Batavia where Foster showed up, and quite a few of the attendees were Fermi Lab employees.


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