Saturday, May 11, 2013

Waxahacie, Fermilab and President Obama

This is a quote from my article HTC, Big Data and the God Particle
Fermilab in Batavia, 20 miles east of Chicago was the leading high energy physics facility. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN was built from 1988 to 2008 and started operations in 2009. Before LHC, Fermilab's Tevatron circular particle collider was the biggest in the world. For about thirty years, it was the number one particle collider serving high energy physics where the need for big data was prevalent long before this term became a media buzzword. On September 30, 2011, the Tevatron was closed during an emotional ceremony.
This was not the initial scenario. In his 1993 book God Particle. If the universe is the answer, what is the question? Leon Lederman, Fermilab director at that time.wrote the following prophecy to his imaginary Bible:
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from east, that they found a plain in the land of Waxahacie, and they dwelt. And they said to one another, Go to, let us build there a Giant Collider, whose collisions may reach back to the beginning of time. And they has superconducting magnets for bending and protons had they for smashing.
And the Lord came down to see the accelerator, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold the people are confounding my confounding. And the Lord sighed and said, Go to, let us go down and there give them the God Particle, so that they may see how beautiful is the the universe I have made.     The Very New Testament, 11:1
According to Wikipedia,
The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) (also nicknamed the Desertron[1]) was a particle accelerator complex under construction in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas, that was set to be the world's largest and most energetic, surpassing the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider. Its planned ring circumference was 87.1 kilometres (54.1 mi) with an energy of 20 TeV per proton... The project was cancelled in 1993 due to budget problems.
SSC would have been three time larger that current CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Leon Lederman was the prominent early supporter and architect of SSC. President Clinton tried to stop the cancellation of the project  by asking Congress to continue "to support this important and challenging effort" through completion because "abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science".

 When the project was canceled, 22.5 km of tunnel and 17 shafts to the surface were already dug.

In 2006, the site was bought by billionaire Johnnie Bryan Hunt for 6.5 million dollars. A former truck driver, Hunt was known throughout his life for his generosity, and was famous for carrying around a money clip containing $100 bills, which he would hand out to people he felt could use the money  Six month later, he slid on a patch of ice, fractured his skull and died.

J.B. Hunt

After his death, the SSC site in Waxahatchie is deteriorating day by day.

The total cost of SSC was initially calculated as $4B . Costs over-runs increased this amount to $14B.

The property is now for sale on an “as-is basis.” “Owner is motivated to sell the property to a qualified investor who offers the most competitive terms including price and closing contingencies,” the advertisement for the property says.

The annual cost of the war in Iraq was $150 billion in 2011. The SSC could have had been build for a cost equivalent to five weeks of war in Iraq.

Public opinion associated high energy physics with nuclear weapons. Here is a photo of an inept idea, an atomic big gun, one can still buy as a toy kit from the The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

Higgs particle discovery would have had been delayed if LHC didn't exist. This Big Science is not about nuclear weapons. It is about huge progress in humanity, including computer sciences, big data, material engineering, High Throughput Computing and High Performance computing. It is about the huge know how Fermilab and the US HEP community accumulated over the years. It left our top US  scientists 100% dependent on facilities available outside the country

The Large Hadron Collider is closed for two years for repairs. LHC and CERN  are great contribution to science from European Union. But United States share an obligation, along Europe to make more substantial contributions and revive the leadership  that both Europe and America share.

The discovery of Higgs, God particle is a wake up call. Come on America, wake up!

If we made for the first time in history the Olympic Games profitable, if we boast the best business schools in the world (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and the like), why can 't we build a revised Superconducting Super Collider 2 (SSC2) project in a profitable way? One possibility, is to create an International corporation-like open to by-invitation investments from all over the world.

If I were president Obama, I would ask a consortium of research, academia and business - what a pity J.B. Hunt passed away too early - to set up a feasibility committee for a state of the art SSC2.

I would place the leadership of this effort in Fermilab. A super collider designed from the huge experience accumulated with the Higgs boson discovery

But I am not president Obama. I am just a blogger with outsiders' insight.

Most presidents build libraries. America has many great libraries. But as we live in times of e-readers and Kindle, it is a good time to look at alternatives. After the closure of Tevatron, America does not have any high energy colliders capable to handle the Big Science in the 21st century.

There is a Japanese word: "sokojikara." When applied to US, it means a reserve power that allows it to overcome the inadequacies of its leaders and the foibles of its citizens.

Somebody has to create the plan for SSC2. These are the special people who America bred or attracted from all over the world. Some are well known. Some are still underdogs.

Presidents sign documents when the plan is ready. All they have to do is to say Yes! and sign. There is some politics, diplomacy, technical genius, public relations and grass root support to make it happen.

President Obama reiterated (April 29, 2013) his strong support for science and technology to members of the National Academy of Sciences at its 150th annual meeting. Science, technology, engineering, and medicine are critical to the nation’s prosperity, Obama said, noting that investments made today are bound to pay off for many years to come.

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