[If you are a layperson interested in the faster-than-light neutrino claim, and you haven’t yet looked at my recent “open-space’’ post and the list of excellent questions laypeople have asked in the comments, you definitely should. And ask your own if you want. That post also gives an organized list of links to my main posts on the neutrino experiment.]
Today is a sad day in American particle physics. It is the day that Fermilab will shut down the Tevatron, once the world’s leading particle accelerator, which discovered and measured the mass and other properties of the top quark (the sixth discovered, and by far the heaviest), tested the Standard Model of particle physics in very great detail (confirming that everything I wrote in this post about the known particles is correct to the available precision of the experiment), and looked hard for the Higgs particle before being overtaken by the Large Hadron Collider. But nature was not kind to this machine and its experiments CDF and DZero, in that nothing in its data about the elementary particles, other than the large mass of the top quark, took us by surprise (and even that only to a degree.) [Though I should remind you that there are a number of interesting hints of new phenomena, as often happens as experiments come to an end, in the most recent results from the Tevatron (here’s my favorite) — but nothing that can yet be said to have stood the test of time.]
What is sad is not that the Tevatron is over — its era had come to a close — but that its end reminds us that there will be nothing like the Tevatron or the Large Hadron Collider, or even other important but now closed facilities like the Stanford Linear Collider (an accelerator that made electron-positron collisions), in the United States for the forseeable future, probably for decades. The period 1990-2010 saw the United States cancel project after project in high-energy physics, leaving the country with a vastly diminished research program, and a serious brain drain. Europe now leads the way.