Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Misinformation about CERN and the LHC

For sure, CERN's LHC is making great progress. But they have not overtaken Fermilab's Tevatron in the amount of "physics" that has been delivered so far.

So it burns my butt when reporters get this fact wrong! In this article from Yahoo!, the author says this:

After a shaky start, experiments at the LHC have in a few months replicated discoveries that took decades to complete at the rival Tevatron accelerator in the United States.

The true fact is that the plan for the LHC is to run through 2011 so that, by that time, they will have replicated the data that the Tevatron has taken decades to produce.

They have not replicated the Tevatron data!


As of now, the experiments at the LHC have accumulated approximately one-twenty-thousandths (0.00005 or 0.05%) of the Tevatron data.

(Because the LHC operates at a higher energy than the Tevatron (3.5 TeV compared to 0.98 TeV), the "effectiveness" of these data is improved by between 2 and 5 times.)

And to say that they "replicated the discoveries" is also misleading: The Tevatron discoveries show them precisely where to look! Anyway, these discoveries at the Tevatron were made with equivalent amount of data, several decades ago.

This sort of mistake unnecessarily makes the Tevatron and Fermilab seem meaningless in the context of CERN and the LHC. This is just not true (and it is not fair). The point of this article, that CERN is bracing for budget cuts, makes Fermilab even more relevant, especially if we decide to extend the Tevatron run through 2012 (which, IHMO, we should).

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