Sunset on the Tevatron: Photos and memories from a Fermilab physicist

For more than 20 years, the Tevatron reigned as the gold standard in particle accelerators. Under a berm outside Batavia, Illinois, the machine pushed protons and antiprotons to high energies around circular tracks before crashing them into each other. What's the point of that? When high-energy protons and antiprotons collide, they reproduce the conditions at the beginning of the Universe, just after the Big Bang. In the wreckage, you can find particles that don't normally exist, and observe phenomena that humans have never seen before. By rubbernecking at a particle crash, researchers hope to better understand life, the Universe, and everything. It's kind of a big deal.

But on Friday, September 30, the Tevatron smashed its last protons.

Ultimately, the Tevatron was simply the victim of the progress of technology. When it opened in 1983, it replaced older, lower-energy accelerators. And, in turn, the Tevatron has been replaced by the Large Hadron Collider, an accelerator capable of pushing particles to even higher energies. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before the Tevatron felt the budgetary axe.

The end of the Tevatron doesn't mean the end of research at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and it doesn't mean the end of particle research in the United States. But it is the end of an era.

William S. Higgins is a radiation safety physicist at Fermilab, and a contributor to He helped build the Tevatron and he was on hand last Friday, recording his thoughts and some photos to share with us. Read the rest

Inside Alvin: Scientists as Makers

There are things you can't buy at Radioshack. There is not always an App for that. Sometimes, the only way to make something work is to build it yourself.

Nobody knows that better than scientists.

From physicists tracking a particle, to taxonomists identifying a new species of wasp, to chemists creating a useful molecule—nearly every discovery you read about in the paper began with the researchers creating the tools they needed to test their own hypotheses. In the lab, DIY isn't just a hobby. It's part of the job.

And Alvin, a research submersible owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, is one of the most successful scientist DIY projects ever. Launched in 1964, Alvin was part of a trend. At the time, everybody wanted their own deep-sea-worthy mini-submarine. But, almost 50 years later, Alvin is one of the few still in use. The little research vessel that could, Alvin was made—and is regularly re-made—by the very people who use it.

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Lucky Cosmonaut

Everybody say, "Hello," to Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko. Hi, Yury!

I like this photo because he kind of reminds me of one of those Japanese lucky cats.

Image: REUTERS/Sergei Remezov

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