Until about four months ago, the proposed $4.4 billion
superconducting super collider project had little meaning to most
No wonder, state leaders - who would like to dedicate at least
$1.5 million in state funds on the chance that a 16,000-acre site
west of Kingfisher be named home to the gigantic research tool -
have described the project in terms of its potential economic
But scientists who are urging the federal government to fund
development of the new facility say the impact they are most
concerned with is that which two proton beams will have on one
another when they collide in the underground tube at the facility.
They speak of quarks, leptons, bosons, quantum gravity and the
super unified theory with the same excitement that state officials
talk about the project's estimated $11 billion economic benefit to
the state selected to serve as its home.
Granted, state leaders have hit upon the immediately
translatable portion of the project. Offer an economic boon of that
magnitude to some of the agriculture and oil dependent states in the
southwest and there is a good chance most folks will smile at the
thought of 2,500 scientists milling about the chosen state because
of the project - even if they don't speak the same language.
But the answers scientists seek through the exotic processes to
be conducted in the 53-mile race track-shaped tube may not be so far
removed from the answers some of the proposed lab's neighbors-to-be
have sought at one time or another.
Dr. Joe Lach, experimental physicist, says he and his colleagues
are still asking the same questions humans of all sizes and ages
have asked for eons.
"I'm in this because I want to find out what the world is made
of," says Lach, who currently conducts research at the Fermi
National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron in Batavia, Ill.
A smaller version of the proposed super collider, Fermi Lab is a
four-mile racetrack-shaped facility that speeds proton beams around
in one direction in its underground tube at high speeds, smashing
them into anti-protons careening toward them from the other
As more than one physicist has put it, the process is something
like banging two Swiss watches together to find out what is inside.
By examining the cogs and works, one can figure out just what made
But unlike the Swiss watch, banging the two protons together is
expected to reveal the very stuff of which the universe is made.
While the Fermi Lab uses protons and anti-protons, the object of
the proposed super collider is to rotate two identical beams of
protons in opposite directions, with one another as the ultimate
target. During the ensuing explosion, computers would document the
result and examine the particles that are released, similar to the
Fermi Lab, but with potential for much greater usable energy.
The spark of energy that is produced when the particles collide
is of a higher energy density - or temperature - than anything in
the known universe, Lach says.
"Those temperatures do not exist in the universe. It's much
higher than the temperature at the center of the sun. The only place
that we know of that those temperatures existed was at the creation
of the universe. …