The Tevatron shuts down | Bleader

The Tevatron shuts down


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At an event marking the closing of the Tevatron, Fermilab's storied particle accelerator—and the subject of this week's Reader cover story—director Pier Oddone departed from prepared remarks to talk about a dream he had last night. It was time to shut down the Tevatron and the two detectors that study the collisions it creates, but a lab technician had barricaded the doors to one of the detectors. "Turn it off," Oddone told the employee in the dream. "Make me," the employee replied.

The Tevatron did, in fact, shut down today. At 2 PM, when the ceremony was scheduled to begin, Fermi employees and journalists standing around in the DZero detector control room went, by seemingly collective assent, silent. The employees looked apprehensive, the journalists expectant. A couple minutes later Oddone began his speech, which was being broadcast into the control room from an auditorium in another building. In the Tevatron's main control room, Helen Edwards, the lead scientist for the machine's construction in the 1980s, was prepared to press a big red button—an actual big red button—that was marked BEAM; it would activate a set of magnets that would steer the beam toward a metal target, terminating it. Then she would push a big blue button next to it, marked RAMP, that controlled the electrical current to the Tevatron. It shut down the superconducting magnets that steer the beams. The magnets are kept at 4 degrees Kelvin, and will take about a week to warm up.

The detectors each needed to be shut off first. At the CDF detector, a technician spoke about the day in 1985 when scientists witnessed the first proton-antiproton collision produced by the Tevatron. "CDF is more than a machine," he said. "It's a living creature with a superhuman ability to see the microscopic world." Outside of the DZero control room, workers gathered in a big hall to watch the proceedings, which were being projected onto a big screen; some held drinks, and some had brought family members along. They cheered at points along the way. Inside the control room, coordinator Bill Lee gave a brief talk, and then asked an employee to turn the detector off.

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