"Fermilab has very actively tried to scoop us by press release, even though their uncertainties are under serious challenge and they knew our measurements even before they released theirs."

Michael Riordan, a member to the Mark II collaboration, in an interview by David Perlman on the San Francisco Chronicle, July 21st 1989

The matter discussed in the interview is the first measurement of the Z boson mass of the CDF experiment at Fermilab, one thus performed using proton-antiproton collisions. The CDF result stupefied the whole world of particle physics for its unforeseen precision (90.90+-0.35 GeV, six times more precise than previous UA1 and UA2 determinations combined). It was presented by Kenneth Ragan at a SLAC topical conference on July 19th 1989, just two days before Mark II could announce at the same conference their own first measurement (MZ=91.11+-0.23 GeV - more precise, as it was based on an energy scan in electron-positron collisions) of the same physical quantity.

The CDF announcement stole the thunder from the Mark II result and created a shock in the SLAC scientists. It is worth noting that both collaborations, beyond competing with one another, were also competing with the LEP experiments, which were about to produce an even more precise result with their first data.

Riordan's quote is remarkable as it condenses three allegations in one sentence, two of which are unsupported. The first one is correct: CDF very much wanted to scoop Mark II, as the Fermilab physicists were very unhappy of the propaganda of electron-positron collisions that SLAC was making at the time, denying that hadron colliders could ever do precision physics. Ultimately, this was connected to the competition between SLAC and Fermilab on the funding they got from the Atomic Energy Commission. CDF "stuck it to them" with their precise Z mass result.

The two other claims are close to insulting: saying that the Z mass result of CDF was "under serious challenge" was totally unsupported - Michael Riordan could only say this because he could not believe that through patience and ingenuity the CDF scientists had managed to calibrate their detector to a level the SLAC physicists thought impossible; they had been hearing the gospel that hadron colliders were not precision machines. He had no grounds for his attack on the carefully evaluated uncertainties of the CDF result.

The last claim in Riordan's quote was the worst: by mentioning that he thought CDF was aware of the Mark II result before releasing theirs he insinuated the suspect that CDF could have used the information to tweak their own central value! This is equivalent to scientific fraud and is the reason why many in CDF were shocked by the San Francisco Chronicle article.

One further reason why the last claim was despicable and false is the fact that just hours before Ragan's talk Michael Levi, another Mark II collaborator, tried to deceive Ragan by showing him "in advance" a fake result from Mark II... Levi wanted Ragan to believe that the CDF Z mass was way off the true value, which could have led him to withhold the announcement of the CDF measurement; indeed, Ragan was giving a general talk on CDF results and had two different talks prepared for the occasion, as he was not sure until the day of the conference whether the CDF Z mass measurement was officially approved (the approval happened on the same morning at Fermilab).