Our plan for discovery

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

When I returned from a trip to Europe some months ago, the officer stamping passports at O’Hare looked at my address, which is on the Fermilab site, and mentioned that it was too bad I would lose my home since Fermilab was shutting down. It gave me an opportunity to let him know that we are very much alive and kicking and that the Tevatron closure was not the closure of Fermilab. It was, however, a reminder that many members of the public believe that Fermilab is shutting down now that the Tevatron is no longer running. The particle physics community knows this isn’t the case, but we must communicate our future plans to a broad audience.

We have taken many steps to inform the public and our representatives about the exciting post-Tevatron program at the Intensity Frontier that includes new facilities and experiments on our site. More broadly, we have explained the programs we have at the energy, intensity and cosmic frontiers of particle physics and in technology R&D. Fermilab plays an essential role at all three frontiers and there are many experiments that we must do if we are to reach a unified understanding of nature at the smallest and the largest distance scales.

The March 19 letter from Bill Brinkman explaining that LBNE as presently designed is not affordable under current budget projections and asking us to consider a phased approach has increased the confusion about the future of Fermilab. What is missed in this discussion is that we have a vital program in the next ten years with a set of world-class experiments at the Intensity Frontier that use the existing accelerators at Fermilab. In studying the many aspects of neutrino physics we have NOvA, MINOS+, MicroBooNE and MINERvA; in studying the charged lepton sector: Mu2e and g-2; and, supported by the nuclear physics program of DOE, the SeaQuest experiment.

What is at stake with LBNE is the long-term future of Fermilab in the neutrino area. I am certain that we will propose attractive alternatives for a phased approach that the DOE Office of Science will be able to support. The groups that I discussed in my column last week have been formed and have started to meet this week. We have many simulation efforts underway and are planning a workshop to take place April 25 and 26 at Fermilab. The draft report will be finished by June. Our plan for discovery will change in the details of how we do LBNE, but not the ultimate goal of the experiment.