In 1991, a potential flaw was identified in the design of the 10,000 15-ton magnets, each built to guide the beam of hurtling protons around the 54-mile ring at nearly light speed. The aperture the beam passes through might be too small, they theorized. Unless it was widened, they could not guarantee the integrity of the Super Collider. It could be fixed, but the price would be dear. The same year, the first U.S. House vote to kill the Super Collider failed. Yet it made clear that the once-widespread congressional support the project enjoyed had eroded after the specter of an economic boon evaporated everywhere but Texas. Nor were international cash contributions to its construction forthcoming, though Bush ardently pursued a potential $2 billion Japanese pledge. It shouldn't have been surprising that a project billed by Reagan as an American coup for supremacy in high-energy physics would receive a cool reception from the rest of the world.

"They made a conscious decision early in the Reagan administration to try and not raise foreign money," said Vigdor Teplitz, then the SMU physics chair and senior international coordination adviser. That the project faced the budget ax year in, year out, didn't inspire confidence either. The magnet redesign and the lack of foreign funding forced the Department of Energy to revise upward its estimate to $8.6 billion. Congress saw this as the latest in a series of broken promises. Representative Don Ritter, a Pennsylvania Republican, began calling the Super Collider a "quark-barrel project."

"The only things that will be colliding under the lands of Texas are taxpayers' dollars," Louisiana Congressman Henson Moore quipped at a June 1992 House vote on the fate of the Super Collider.

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.

Representative Joe Barton of Ellis County explained to a House full of deficit hawks that the more than $600 million in appropriations slated for the Super Collider that year wouldn't be diverted to the deficit. But the scattered opposition to the project had stiffened. There was no opposing superpower in the East with which to galvanize support. That day, the House voted again to cancel the Super Collider. The Senate, along with a House-Senate conference committee, saved the project from an early, ignominious death.

The following month, a lame-duck Bush spoke about his jobs plan and the need to stimulate an American economy limping out of a downturn. His remarks were delivered at a Super Collider laboratory deep in Ellis County farm country to members of the project and the press. "History has shown again and again that by pushing technology to ever-higher levels of accomplishment, we can achieve immensely practical consequences," the president began. "To give you just one example, at Argonne Laboratories years ago, scientists were trying to purify liquid hydrogen for use with what was then the world's largest accelerator. They ended up figuring out a way to make artificial kidneys for just $15 apiece. That resulted from this fundamental science. The same kind of developments will occur right here, on a scale never before imagined. Here, for example, is where a new electronics industry is going to be born."

Then he appealed more broadly to the national thirst for human endeavors that capture the imagination, the way President John F. Kennedy's exhortations dared America to reach for the moon. A battle was being waged in Congress, Bush said, between "the patrons of the past and the architects of the future."

But the battle was decided the moment Bush left office. President Bill Clinton was not yet up to speed on the project, and his support for it was tepid at best. After scandal forced the resignation of U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright of Fort Worth, the power of the Texas delegation was on the wane. The Super Collider was competing with the International Space Station for funding. Congress was unlikely to send billions to NASA in Houston and Waxahachie. "I have often said, on the one hand, the (Super Collider) was too big," said Fred Gilman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who was the head of the Super Collider research division. "And on the other, it was too small." In other words, it was too big because it was a federal line-item, and too small because the space station was much more expensive, with pork distributed throughout the 50 states. It didn't hurt that it had the steadfast support of Vice President Al Gore.

As a part of Clinton's deficit-reduction strategy, yearly funding for the Super Collider was reduced and the project drawn out from a projected 1999 completion to 2003. Even at lower funding levels, there was still overhead and salaries to be paid, the veritable standing army. The Super Collider would now cost some $10 billion, twice the initial estimate. Congress had finally had enough. "I know for a fact Clinton was gauging his position," said Roy Schwitters, the director of the Super Collider project. "The homework was being done, but it was getting late in the game. That crucial vote came up in June, and that was too big to get put back together again by the Senate." A 10-year odyssey ended with a single vote to cancel by a 2-to-1 margin. The 15 miles of tunnel would be sealed off. Some $2 billion would be lost. The $640 million allotted to the project that year would be used instead to wind it down. The greatest scientific experiment in the history of man, championed through two Republican presidencies, met its end under a Democrat.

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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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