A sportswriter once asked the Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken "The Snake" Stabler what he thought London had meant, Reagan said. Stabler's reply was as succinct as the president's message: "Throw deep."

Nearly every state in the union bid to be the home of the Super Collider. Nevada Governor Richard Bryan called it "the most significant economic development plum of the last quarter of the 20th century." Locales as far-flung as Hudspeth County in West Texas and the famed King Ranch in South Texas vied for the privilege to host the project. By a resounding 75 percent, voters approved a state bond package for $1 billion to defray the cost of construction. It had the unwavering support of U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, along with the rest of the state's delegation.

Texas was reeling from falling oil prices, a real estate bubble and the collapse of the savings and loan industry. The Super Collider was the psychological victory the state needed to wrest itself from the economic doldrums. Though the construction would employ some 4,000 only temporarily and 2,500 permanently, the spin-offs in superconducting technology, supercomputing, medical imaging and proton-beam cancer therapy created by a high-tech corridor flanking I-35 were the stuff of daydreams.

Kaushik De, a physics professor at UTA, in a room full of computer servers that processed data that helped locate the Higgs boson.
Mark Graham
Kaushik De, a physics professor at UTA, in a room full of computer servers that processed data that helped locate the Higgs boson.
Ryszard Stroynowski, an SMU physics professor, helped design the massive detector that found Higgs boson.
Mark Graham
Ryszard Stroynowski, an SMU physics professor, helped design the massive detector that found Higgs boson.

That is to say nothing of the quest itself, probing the mysteries of the improbable accident of life and answering a question that had hung awkwardly in the rarefied halls of the world's laboratories and universities for decades. Imagine a knife of infinite sharpness slicing an object into dust, then into vapor, then into molecules, then into atoms, then into protons and neutrons and finally into something so solid, so fundamental that it cannot be halved. The Standard Model of physics predicts this object, the quark, is the irreducible fundament of all matter — at least so far. Yet, in terms of tallying the mass of quarks, which comprise the tactile world, the Standard Model is conspicuously mum. We know that a stone has mass, so how can this possibly be? Was there something else imbuing the stars and planets and all the earthly things we can see and touch with mass? Why do they weigh anything at all?

Peter Higgs, a British theoretical physicist, proposed the answer in 1964 — a field through which all matter passes, like swimmers of varying prowess through water. This field, he proposed, imparted the quality of mass. It was an elegant theory, and if true, it was another step toward realizing Albert Einstein's dream of a variegated cosmos, explained with a single equation. The only way to prove Higgs' proposal would be to locate the field's conduit, the Higgs boson, a particle so short-lived it can barely be said to have existed. And the only way to peer into this ineffable quality of matter was to build a particle accelerator of unprecedented size and power, along with detectors weighing thousands of tons, and a supercomputing system unlike anything the world had ever seen.

Behind all the impenetrable mathematical calculations, finding the Higgs came down to a capital investment of billions of dollars.

The U.S. Department of Energy was prepared to make that investment. If the Higgs boson existed, the Super Collider would find it.

Winnowed down to two site proposals, one near Dallas, in Ellis County, and the second near Amarillo, Texas' bid weighed more than a ton and had to be flown to Washington on separate planes. But it was the Ellis County site, and a proposal from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, that received the most serious consideration. Fermilab already had a laboratory and tunnels that could be repurposed for the Super Collider. The site that would surround Waxahachie like a wheel around a hub would be built from scratch. But it had another advantage: geology. The formation below ground, known as Austin Chalk, was ideal for tunneling, supple yet strong enough to withstand subsurface pressures without wall bracing. What's more, the site had an international airport within striking distance capable of serving the physicists who would stream in and out from universities across the globe. "Even more important than that was the enthusiasm of the state and locality," said Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate and physicist at the University of Texas, who was a member of the site-selection committee.

On November 10, 1988, two days after the election of President George H.W. Bush, state District Judge Gene Knize in Waxahachie was handed a note as he presided over his court. According to an L.A. Times report, he "raised his arms and intoned, 'Super Collider, Super Collider, Super Collider.'" The judge called a recess. As the courtroom emptied onto the courthouse steps, a helicopter with a cameraman leaning out the door banked low. Until now, Ellis County was known for farmland and its soaring nine-story sandstone and pink granite courthouse, above which a Romanesque Revival clock tower rises over dun and red-brick storefronts. And it was known for its well-preserved gingerbread homes and the idyllic sweep of the countryside that provided the setting for Places in the Heart with Sally Fields, Tender Mercies with Robert Duvall, and Bonnie and Clyde.

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15 comments
t7pm
t7pm

good article to read but i seriously have a huge problem with personal biases and unnecessary derogative words thrown into the news like when the author called Bush a lame duck. i don't like everything Bush did but please be more professional next time. 

torrHL
torrHL

@modassic Pakistani Nobel laureate whose work led to Higgs was scorned in homeland because of his religious affiliation http://t.co/vDeikTlJ

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk

I'm sure the conservative powers-that-be were incensed by the arrogance displayed by the scientific community in referring to this "science-y" thing as the *GOD* particle and decided to rile up the rabble and get their collective pitchfork on to drive this thing back north where the godless-commie-libtard-yankees can absorb "Gawd's Awful Wrath" for daring to mock his creation with things like "microscopes" and "theories" and such.

jbeckplano
jbeckplano

My recollection of that time was that then Senator Phil Gramm played a negative role in this whole affair.  You see, as I recall, Phil made a lot of enemies in Congress with his relentless attacks on the "pork" for their states and districts.  Then when it came to the supercollider in his state of Texas, it was payback time.  Comments and corrections welcomed.

Rudy Cruz
Rudy Cruz

I wrote a paper on the SSC right after congress axed the expensive effort. Last estimate put it over $13-billion; enough money to send every man, woman and child to college for free in America. Sometimes you have to ask, does the ends justify the means? But all these years I've still yet to find out what happened to all those humongous magnets.

mamta2
mamta2

The Higgs Boson adds mass only when three quark particles get together. Just two are not found to form a stable proton with mass. Immediately after its function of adding the mass, Higgs Boson ceases to exist. This concept of the need for the basic three to create matter, has been discussed in Indian knowledge system which describes the Universe as being created from TrigunathmikaPrakrithi. Prakrithi is the nature of the Creation of this Universe and Triguna are the three characteristics which help in this Creation process. The process itself is called Trivrtitkaranam, “the act of the three when they come together.”

Amazing Parallels between the ancient Indian Knowledge Systems and Modern Research on Creation. More here- http://wp.me/p2y0ZV-7R

 

akm1044
akm1044

Is anyone out there willing to converse?

akm1044
akm1044

Whoops I misspelled  EXPLORATION

 

akm1044
akm1044

The God particle  IS the next destination for eploration. Damm the goverment for stopping it's support. Who is afraid of finding the truth? I believe that it is far much scarier to not know what we are up against or coming into .

Randy Wilson
Randy Wilson

Our dropping the ball on the Super Collider was one of the great scientific tragedies of the modern age

dallas_paul
dallas_paul

 @t7pm Perhaps you should look up the phrase "lame duck" before posting.

dallas_paul
dallas_paul

 @TheCredibleHulk The name "God particle" comes from Lederman's book of the same name, a title from his publisher that he grudgingly agreed to. The book was published after the vote to defund the SSCL, and thus had no bearing at all in the decision.

 
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