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The nomadic life of a particle physicist

Fermilab podcast

By Margaret Harris

When I heard that Fermilab’s Tevatron particle accelerator was going to be shut down, my first thought wasn’t about the race to discover the Higgs boson, or the shutdown’s implications for CERN and the rival Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Instead, it was “What will happen to the scientists?”.

One of the great things about being a science journalist is that, once in a while, you get the chance to find answers to questions like this. So when Physics World sent me to Fermilab last autumn to learn more about the lab’s scientific plans for a post-Tevatron future, I added a few personal questions to my interviews, such as “What are you going to do now?” and “What was the day of the shutdown like?”.

You can hear a few of the answers in this podcast, which is drawn from more than nine hours of interviews with 25 different physicists. Most of the interviews were conducted at Fermilab, but I also did a few at CERN, because I wanted to hear from people who had followed the “energy frontier” as it moved from the Tevatron to the LHC. As one of these emigrants explained to me, being a particle physicist is sometimes a little like being a surf bum: “you go where the waves are good, where the beam is good”.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download it via this link.

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