Magazine article Science News

Shattering the SSC Vision: What Next?

Magazine article Science News

Shattering the SSC Vision: What Next?

Article excerpt

The end came abruptly. Last week, the House voted overwhelmingly to reject further funding for construction of the $11 billion Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). Within days, Senate SSC supporters conceded and Congress allocated $640 million -- funds originally slated for continuing the project in fiscal year 1994 -- for shutting it down.

The decision strands thousands of physicists, engineers, and other workers attracted to Waxahachie, Texas, by the prospect of building a gigantic particle accelrator to probe the origin of mass, particularly the interactions that allowed energy to condense into a universe of protons, electrons, and neutrons. "This clearly has been devastating to our community," says Michael Barnett of the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) Laboratory. "They've devoted 10 years of their lives to this project. Right now, they feel like they've been shot in the knees. It really hurts."

House opponents of the SSC generally insisted that they were not rejecting the science behind the accelerator. They simply believed that the nation could no longer afford such an expensive undertaking. Reports of alleged mismanagement and cost overruns also hurt the SSC cause.

"I hope . . . that I am correct in interpreting the will of the House as a call for building better partnerships with other countries in the conduct of large science projects," said Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), a strong SSC supporter. "The research that we envisioned for the SSC -- and the economic spin-offs of that research -- must continue. …

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