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Voting against the Super Collider.

On June 17, the House of Representatives voted to cut funding of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) from $483.7 million to $34 million for fiscal year 1993. That action provides just enough funds to shut down construction of what was to be the world's most powerful particle accelerator. More than $1 billion has already been spent on the $8.25 billion project -- on activities ranging from the development of special superconducting magnets to the acquisition of land and the start of construction of the accelerator's 54-mile, circular tunnel and other facilities near Waxahachie, Texas.

"The House vote to kill the SSC turned entirely on one issue: money," says Rep. George E. Brown Jr.(D-Calif.), one of the SSC's strongest supporters. "A majority of the House decided that we can no longer afford this project and can no longer afford U.S. leadership in high-energy physics."

The fate of the SSC now rests with the Senate, which conducted a hearing last week on the project's status. If the Senate restores funding for the SSC, then House and Senate representatives will have to negotiate a settlement. With the SSC nearing its peak in annual funding requirements, such a settlement is unlikely to provide sufficient support to continue the project at its present pace.

The action by Congress added to the sense of unease underlying the Third International Symposium on the History of Particle Physics, held at the end of June at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto, Calif. This symposium -- focused on the experimental and theoretical work that led in the 1960s and 1970s to the rapid development of the remarkably successful standard model of particle physics -- should have been a celebration of what several participants described as a great triumph of the human intellect. Instead, it mirrored the gnawing uncertainty within the high-energy physics community concerning its future.

Despite the standard model's great success in accounting for the interactions of fundamental particles and forces, theorists see it as incomplete (SN: 9/29/90, p.204). But they have few clues as to how they should modify the model. "At this point, our progress seems to have come to a stop," Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin told the symposium audience.

Physicists had hoped that experiments at the SSC would help settle the issue of which way to proceed toward a deeper understanding of the fundamental nature of matter. The House vote showed that "this hope may not be fulfilled," Weinberg added. "Congress has needlessly discarded years of our work as well as $1 billion for the pettiest of political motives."
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Title Annotation:House of Representatives votes to cut funding to $34 billion for 1993
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 11, 1992
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