Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Are We if We Can't Even Afford This?

In 1969, Robert Wilson, the director of the then-being-created Fermilab, was called to justify the multimillion-dollar machine to the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. "Bucking the trend of the day, Wilson emphasized it had nothing at all to do with national security," rather:
It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

Fermilab, of course, went on to become on of the most successful high-energy labs of all time, including the discovery of the bottom quark.

But now the U.S. can't even come up with $35M to continue work on the most important issue in experimental physics (and, almost surely, a Nobel Prize):

Researchers working at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, had wanted to run their 25-year-old atom smasher, the Tevatron, through 2014 in hopes of spotting the so-called Higgs boson before their European counterparts could discover it with their newer, more powerful atom smasher. But officials at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which funds Fermilab, informed lab officials this week that DOE cannot come up with the extra $35 million per year to keep the Tevatron going beyond September.
-- Adrian Cho, Science, Jan 14, 2011

1 comment:

Brian G Valentine said...

As a DOE employee I was sad to learn that this activity will not be carried out. Unfortunately I have no influence on the decision.

In fairness, I am not convinced that the luminance to observe (directly or indirectly) the HVB can be achieved, although null results would still provide meaningful information about it.

Moreover, the proposed work would be a meaningful contribution to learning about the possible use of the accelerator as a high-density power source.