Panel Warns of a Crisis in American Physics
The crux of the matter: The United States should be prepared to spend up to half a billion dollars in the next five years.... A half a billion dollars is equal to 500 million dollars, and the infamous Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere", over which a handful of Alaskans would tread, would have cost 231 million dollars. In the long run, which is more important, walking over a bridge, or striding into the future by maintaining our lead in basic science?
Panel Warns of a Crisis in American Physics - New York Times
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Physics in America is at a crossroads and in crisis, just as humanity stands on the verge of great discoveries about the nature of matter and the universe, a panel from the National Academy of Sciences concludes in a new report.
The United States should be prepared to spend up to half a billion dollars in the next five years to ensure that a giant particle accelerator now being designed by a worldwide consortium of scientists can be built on American soil, the panel said. If that does not happen, particle physics, the quest for the fundamental forces and constituents of nature, will wither in this country, it said. [....]
"Failure to build the machine, the International Linear Collider, in the United States, the panel said, would force American particle physicists to do their research in Europe, where a major machine is to come online next year, and other places, perhaps Japan.
The blow to American physics would erode the base of science and technology that has fueled innovation, provided intellectual and cultural inspiration and bolstered national security over the last century. [....]
The report says: "The committee has concluded that the price the United States would pay by forfeiting a leadership position in particle physics is too high. Leadership in science remains central to the economic and cultural vitality of the United States." [....]
The International Linear Collider will shoot electrons and their antimatter opposites, positrons, at each other through a tunnel some 20 miles long. Working in tandem with the Large Hadron Collider, another giant machine to begin operating at the European Center for Nuclear Research, CERN, outside Geneva, next year, the linear collider will enable physicists to explore "revolutionary new physics," probe the origins of mass and investigate the nature of the mysterious dark matter that dominates the universe, scientists say.
Dr. Shapiro said, "We concluded that this might be the most exciting moment in particle physics in a generation." [....]
The most powerful accelerator now operating, the Tevatron at the Fermi National Laboratory outside Chicago, is scheduled to shut down in 2010, leaving Fermilab with an uncertain future.
An even larger accelerator that would have been the world's largest, the Super Conducting Supercollider, under construction in Texas, was canceled by Congress in 1993.