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Batavia

Fermilab discovers rare variant of the tetraquark

Fermilab discovers rare variant of the tetraquark

The DZero detector at Fermilab is seen in 1997, when it was running experiments. A tetraquark discovery has been extracted from data recorded at the DZero site.
The DZero detector at Fermilab is seen in 1997, when it was running experiments. A tetraquark discovery has been extracted from data recorded at the DZero site.

BATAVIA – Before it shut down in 2011, the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia was one of the most powerful particle accelerators in the world. Nonetheless, the facility has remained on the cutting edge of high-energy physics.

The Batavia laboratory has done so by doing work that complements the now-reigning Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and by studying the neutrino, an elementary particle that is literally everywhere.

The ability of Fermilab physicists to make ground-breaking discoveries was demonstrated recently with the identification of a rare, exotic sub-atomic particle called a tetraquark.

Actually, the existence of tetraquarks – particles composed of four quarks – has been known to physicists. What makes the Fermilab discovery unique is that the grouping being
recognized is composed of four different types of quarks.

The discovery is a legacy of the Tevatron accelerator. Physicists poring over reams of data generated by the Tevatron identified the new class of tetraquark.

A key player in the discovery was Peter Garbincius of Batavia, an experimental particle physicist at the lab.

“Quarks are really strange beasts,” Garbincius said.

The new tetraquark discovered by Garbincius and his colleagues contains an up quark, down quark, bottom quark and strange quark.

“Those are just whimsical names,” Garbincius said, grinning.

A quark is a fundamental building block of matter, with protons and neutrons each containing three quarks. Quarks also come in pairs – a grouping known as a meson – but larger groupings are considered rare.

Even rarer is the class found at Fermilab.

“Is it important? I don’t know,” Garbincius said of the discovery, but added that it may offer clues into how quarks combine.

The tetraquark discovery was extracted from data recorded at Fermilab’s DZero site, the name coming from its location designation along an accelerator ring.

Inside of the DZero building rests a 5,000 ton machine of metal and wire that can detect the infinitesimally tiny particles that result when physicists direct beams of protons and anti-protons into collisions.

“We take a snapshot of that beam crossing,” said Bill Lee, a physicist working as the “run coordinator” at the DZero site, noting that it takes in the neighborhood of one trillion collisions to generate a single tetraquark.

At the core of the DZero detector is a tank of liquid argon, through which the beam line runs.

Inside of the machine, a visitor is surrounded by walls of massive metal panels. Below the catwalk that allows humans to tour the machine, one can see the gigantic hydraulic equipment used to close the space between the panels when the detector is in operation.

“We put the detector as close to the beam line as possible to measure the particle decay,” Lee said.

Now, Garbincius is off to Italy to make a report on the recent discovery to scientists there.

Garbincius said it is important for the public to understand what physicists do, which is why he serves as coordinator for Fermilab’s popular “Ask-a-Scientist” program, which allows visitors to do just that, generally on the first Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. in Fermilab’s Wilson Hall.

“We try to understand what the universe is made of,” Garbincius said of his work. “We’re always thinking about what’s next.”

SIDBAR

Fermilab fast facts

Fermilab, known officially as Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is a premier high-energy physics facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Here are some fast facts about Fermilab:

• Established in 1967, the lab is named for pioneering physicist Enrico Fermi, who created the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction in 1942 at the University of Chicago.

• Fermilab’s iconic 16-story Wilson Hall is named for Robert Rathbun Wilson, the lab’s first director from 1967 to 1978. He had earlier worked on the Manhattan Project – the first atomic bomb.

• Physicists at Fermilab discovered the bottom quark in 1977 and the top quark in 1995. These subatomic particles are elementary buildings blocks of matter.

• The planned Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility at Fermilab will shoot neutrinos 800 miles through the ground to a detection facility in North Dakota.

• Fermilab and its scientists promote education through a variety programs. Every year, about 40,000 students either visit the lab or are visited by Fermilab scientists in their classrooms.

• The sprawling Fermilab property on the east edge of Batavia is also a wildlife refuge, home to a herd of bison and to a natural prairie grass restoration project.

• Learn more about Fermilab at www.fnal.gov.

BATAVIA – Before it shut down in 2011, the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia was one of the most powerful particle accelerators in the world. Nonetheless, the facility has remained on the cutting edge of high-energy physics.

The Batavia laboratory has done so by doing work that complements the now-reigning Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and by studying the neutrino, an elementary particle that is literally everywhere.

The ability of Fermilab physicists to make ground-breaking discoveries was demonstrated recently with the identification of a rare, exotic sub-atomic particle called a tetraquark.

Actually, the existence of tetraquarks – particles composed of four quarks – has been known to physicists. What makes the Fermilab discovery unique is that the grouping being
recognized is composed of four different types of quarks.

The discovery is a legacy of the Tevatron accelerator. Physicists poring over reams of data generated by the Tevatron identified the new class of tetraquark.

A key player in the discovery was Peter Garbincius of Batavia, an experimental particle physicist at the lab.

“Quarks are really strange beasts,” Garbincius said.

The new tetraquark discovered by Garbincius and his colleagues contains an up quark, down quark, bottom quark and strange quark.

“Those are just whimsical names,” Garbincius said, grinning.

A quark is a fundamental building block of matter, with protons and neutrons each containing three quarks. Quarks also come in pairs – a grouping known as a meson – but larger groupings are considered rare.

Even rarer is the class found at Fermilab.

“Is it important? I don’t know,” Garbincius said of the discovery, but added that it may offer clues into how quarks combine.

The tetraquark discovery was extracted from data recorded at Fermilab’s DZero site, the name coming from its location designation along an accelerator ring.

Inside of the DZero building rests a 5,000 ton machine of metal and wire that can detect the infinitesimally tiny particles that result when physicists direct beams of protons and anti-protons into collisions.

“We take a snapshot of that beam crossing,” said Bill Lee, a physicist working as the “run coordinator” at the DZero site, noting that it takes in the neighborhood of one trillion collisions to generate a single tetraquark.

At the core of the DZero detector is a tank of liquid argon, through which the beam line runs.

Inside of the machine, a visitor is surrounded by walls of massive metal panels. Below the catwalk that allows humans to tour the machine, one can see the gigantic hydraulic equipment used to close the space between the panels when the detector is in operation.

“We put the detector as close to the beam line as possible to measure the particle decay,” Lee said.

Now, Garbincius is off to Italy to make a report on the recent discovery to scientists there.

Garbincius said it is important for the public to understand what physicists do, which is why he serves as coordinator for Fermilab’s popular “Ask-a-Scientist” program, which allows visitors to do just that, generally on the first Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. in Fermilab’s Wilson Hall.

“We try to understand what the universe is made of,” Garbincius said of his work. “We’re always thinking about what’s next.”

SIDBAR

Fermilab fast facts

Fermilab, known officially as Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is a premier high-energy physics facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Here are some fast facts about Fermilab:

• Established in 1967, the lab is named for pioneering physicist Enrico Fermi, who created the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction in 1942 at the University of Chicago.

• Fermilab’s iconic 16-story Wilson Hall is named for Robert Rathbun Wilson, the lab’s first director from 1967 to 1978. He had earlier worked on the Manhattan Project – the first atomic bomb.

• Physicists at Fermilab discovered the bottom quark in 1977 and the top quark in 1995. These subatomic particles are elementary buildings blocks of matter.

• The planned Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility at Fermilab will shoot neutrinos 800 miles through the ground to a detection facility in North Dakota.

• Fermilab and its scientists promote education through a variety programs. Every year, about 40,000 students either visit the lab or are visited by Fermilab scientists in their classrooms.

• The sprawling Fermilab property on the east edge of Batavia is also a wildlife refuge, home to a herd of bison and to a natural prairie grass restoration project.

• Learn more about Fermilab at www.fnal.gov.

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