Superconducting Super Collider
SSC site, 2008
|Intersecting Storage Rings||CERN, 1971–1984|
|Super Proton Synchrotron||CERN, 1981–1984|
|ISABELLE||BNL, cancelled in 1983|
|Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider||BNL, 2000–present|
|Superconducting Super Collider||Cancelled in 1993|
|Large Hadron Collider||CERN, 2009–present|
|Future Circular Collider||Proposed|
The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) (also nicknamed the Desertron) was a particle accelerator complex under construction in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas. Its planned ring circumference was 87.1 kilometers (54.1 mi) with an energy of 20 TeV per proton and was set to be the world's largest and most energetic. It would have greatly surpassed the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider which has ring circumference 27 km (17 mi) and energy of 6.5 TeV per proton. The project's director was Roy Schwitters, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Louis Ianniello served as its first Project Director for 15 months. The project was cancelled in 1993 due to budget problems.
Proposal and development
The system was first formally discussed in the December 1976 National Reference Designs Study, which examined the technical and economic feasibility of a machine with the design capacity of 20 TeV per proton. Fermilab director and subsequent Nobel physics prizewinner Leon Lederman was a very prominent early supporter – some sources say the architect or proposer – of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime.
During the design and the first construction stage, a heated debate ensued about the high cost of the project. In 1987, Congress was told the project could be completed for $4.4 billion, and it gained the enthusiastic support of Speaker Jim Wright of nearby Fort Worth, Texas. A recurring argument was the contrast with NASA's contribution to the International Space Station (ISS), a similar dollar amount. Critics of the project (Congressmen representing other US states and scientists working in non-SSC fields who felt the money would be better spent on their own fields) argued that the US could not afford both of them. Early in 1993 a group supported by funds from project contractors organized a public relations campaign to lobby Congress directly, but in June, the non-profit Project on Government Oversight released a draft audit report by the Department of Energy's Inspector General heavily criticizing the Super Collider for its high costs and poor management by officials in charge of it.
Congress officially canceled the project October 21, 1993 after $2 billion had been spent. Many factors contributed to the cancellation: rising cost estimates (to $12bn); poor management by physicists and Department of Energy officials; the end of the need to prove the supremacy of American science with the collapse of the Soviet Union; belief that many smaller scientific experiments of equal merit could be funded for the same cost; Congress's desire to generally reduce spending (the USA was running a $255bn budget deficit); the reluctance of Texas Governor Ann Richards; and President Bill Clinton's initial lack of support for a project begun during the administrations of Richards's predecessor, Bill Clements, and Clinton's predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. The project's cancellation was also eased by opposition from within the scientific community. Prominent condensed matter physicists, such as Philip W. Anderson and Nicolaas Bloembergen, testified before Congress opposing the project. They argued that, although the SSC would certainly conduct high-quality research, it was not the only way to acquire new fundamental knowledge, as some of its supporters claimed, and so was unreasonably expensive. Scientific critics of the SSC pointed out that basic research in other areas, such as condensed matter physics and materials science, was underfunded compared to high energy physics, despite the fact that those fields were more likely to produce applications with technological and economic benefits. However, in 1993, Clinton tried to prevent the cancellation 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".
Following Rep. Jim Slattery's successful orchestration in the House, President Clinton signed the bill which finally cancelled the project on October 31, 1993, stating regret at the "serious loss" for science.
Reactions to the cancellation
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, places the cancellation of the SSC in the context of a bigger national and global socio-economic crisis, including a general crisis in funding for science research and for the provision of adequate education, healthcare, transportation and communication infrastructure, and criminal justice and law enforcement.
Leon Lederman, a promoter and advocate from its early days, wrote his 1993 popular science book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? – which sought to promote awareness of the significance of the work which necessitated such a project – in the context of the project's last years and loss of congressional support.
The closing of the SSC had adverse consequences for the southern part of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, and resulted in a mild recession, most evident in those parts of Dallas which lay south of the Trinity River. When the project was canceled, 22.5 km (14.0 mi) of tunnel and 17 shafts to the surface were already dug, and nearly two billion dollars had already been spent on the massive facility.
Comparison to the Large Hadron Collider
The SSC's planned collision energy of 2 x 20 = 40 TeV was roughly three times that of the 2 x 6.5 = 13 TeV (as of June 2015) of its European counterpart, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva.
Although some claimed that the SSC cost was largely due to the massive civil engineering project of digging a huge tunnel underground, that was somewhat of a distortion. The tunneling and conventional facility buildout budget was only about ten percent of the total budgeted cost (1.1 billion dollars out of a total cost of 10 billion). The major cost item was the magnets, still in laboratory development phase, consequently with a higher level of uncertainty attached to the final cost.
The LHC's advantage in terms of cost was the use of the pre-existing engineering infrastructure and 27 km long underground cavern of the Large Electron–Positron Collider, and its use of a different, innovative magnet design to bend the higher energy particles into the available tunnel. The LHC eventually cost the equivalent of about 5 billion US dollars to build. The total operating budget of the LHC runs to about $1 billion per year. The Large Hadron Collider became operational in August 2008.
Cross sections of preform superconductor rods from sample runs
Current status of site
After the project was canceled, the main site was deeded to Ellis County, Texas, and the county tried numerous times to sell the property. The property was finally sold in August 2006 to an investment group led by the late J.B. Hunt. Collider Data Center has contracted with GVA Cawley to market the site as a data center.
Chemical company Magnablend bought the property and facilities in 2012, against some opposition from the local community.
- UNK proton accelerator – a similar competing Soviet project discontinued at about the same time in Russia
- Cramer, John G. (May 1997). "The Decline and Fall of the SSC". The Alternate View column. Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine. Archived from the original on October 10, 1997. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
- "In Memory of Louis Ianniello". JOM. Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. October 2005. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
Ianniello initiated the effort to construct the Superconducting Supercollider as the first project director, established the organization, led the project through the first crucial 15 months defining the Texas site specific baseline, and led the project through initial Congressional approval(archived at Highbeam)(subscription required)
- Weinberg, Steven (May 10, 2012). "The Crisis of Big Science". New York Review of Books.
- Hoddeson & Kolb 2001, p. 275.
- Aschenbach, Joy (December 5, 1993). "No Resurrection in Sight for Moribund Super Collider : Science: Global financial partnerships could be the only way to salvage such a project. But some feel that Congress delivered a fatal blow.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
Disappointed American physicists are anxiously searching for a way to salvage some science from the ill-fated superconducting super collider ... "We have to keep the momentum and optimism and start thinking about international collaboration," said Leon M. Lederman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was the architect of the super collider plan
- Hoddeson, Lillian; Kolb, Adrienne. "Vision to reality: From Robert R. Wilson's frontier to Leon M. Lederman's Fermilab". arXiv:.
Lederman also planned what he saw as Fermilab's next machine, the Superconducting SuperCollider (SSC)
- Abbott, Charles (June 1987). "Illinois Issues journal, June 1987". p. 18.
Lederman, who considers himself an unofficial propagandist for the super collider, said the SSC could reverse the physics brain drain in which bright young physicists have left America to work in Europe and elsewhere.(direct link to article: 
- Kevles, Dan. "Good-bye to the SSC: On the Life and Death of the Superconducting Super Collider" (PDF). California Institute of Technology: "Engineering & Science". 58 no. 2 (Winter 1995): 16–25. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
Lederman, one of the principal spokesmen for the SSC, was an accomplished high-energy experimentalist who had made Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the development of the Standard Model during the 1960s (although the prize itself did not come until 1988). He was a fixture at congressional hearings on the collider, an unbridled advocate of its merits
- Staff, Wire services (December 29, 2009). "Q & A: Texas supercollider project scrapped". tampabay.com. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Riddlesperger, Jim (February 26, 2010). "Jim Wright", West Texas Historical Association and East Texas Historical Association, joint meeting in Fort Worth, Texas
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- Trivelpiece, Alvin W. (2005). "Some Observations on DOE's Role in Megascience" (PDF). History of Physics Forum, American Physical Society. Retrieved July 11, 2010. Trivelpiece recounts hearing "about a conversation between the Governor of Texas, the Honorable Ann Richards, and President Clinton early in his administration. He asked her if she wanted to fight for the SSC. She said no. That meant it would no longer be an administration imperative."(subscription required)
- Martin, Joseph D. (2015). "Fundamental Disputations: The Philosophical Debates that Governed American Physics, 1939–1993". Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences. 45 (5): 703–757. Retrieved January 28, 2015.(subscription required)
- Clinton, Bill (June 16, 1993). "Letter to Representative William H. Natcher on the Superconducting Super Collider" (pdf). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 4, 2012. The letter reads in part, "As your Committee considers the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1994, I want you to know of my continuing support for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). ... Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science—a position unquestioned for generations. These are tough economic times, yet our Administration supports this project as a part of its broad investment package in science and technology. ... I ask you to support this important and challenging effort."
- "Stating Regret, Clinton Signs Bill That Kills Supercollider". The New York Times. October 31, 1993. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- Calder, Nigel (2005). Magic Universe:A Grand Tour of Modern Science. pp. 369–370.
The possibility that the next big machine would create the Higgs became a carrot to dangle in front of funding agencies and politicians. A prominent American physicist, Leon lederman, advertised the Higgs as The God Particle in the title of a book published in 1993 ...Lederman was involved in a campaign to persuade the US government to continue funding the Superconducting Super Collider... the ink was not dry on Lederman's book before the US Congress decided to write off the billions of dollars already spent
- Mervis, Jeffrey (October 3, 2003). "Scientists are long gone, but bitter memories remain". Science. 302 (5642): 40–41. doi:10.1126/science.302.5642.40. PMID 14526052. Retrieved July 11, 2010.(subscription required)
- Mervis, Jeffrey; Siefe, Charles (October 3, 2003). "Lots of reasons, but few lessons". Science. 302 (5642): 38–40. doi:10.1126/science.302.5642.38. PMID 14526051. Retrieved July 11, 2010.(subscription required)
- "The Large Hadron Collider". CERN
- Ananthaswamy, Anil (March 10, 2010). "It's the magnets, stupid: Why the LHC succeeded where the SSC failed". edgeofphysics.com blog.
- Perez, Christine (August 18, 2006). "GVA Cawley to market former super collider". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved July 11, 2010. Collider Data Center, LLC.
- GVA Cawley (August 16, 2006). "High Profile Superconducting Super Collider Project from Early 90's Sees New Life". Superconductor Week. Archived from the original (Press release) on May 19, 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Shipp, Brett (January 31, 2012). "Neighbors vow to fight chemical plant at Super Collider site". WFAA (Dallas, TX).
- Riordan, Michael, Hoddeson, Lillian, and Kolb, Adrienne W. (2015). "Tunnel Visions: The Rise and Fall of the Superconducting Super Collider." U. of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-29479-7
- Hoddeson, Lillian; Kolb, Adrienne W. (August 2001). "The superconducting Super Collider's Frontier Outpost, 1983–1988" (PDF). Fermilab: 271–310.
- Lederman, Leon; Teresi, Dick (1994). "The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?". Delta. ISBN 0-385-31211-3.
- Wouk, Herman (2004). "A Hole In Texas", fiction. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-52590-1.
- Sterling, Bruce (July 1994). "The Dead Collider". Fantasy & Science Fiction Science column. Issue #13, 1994.
- Riordan, Michael (December 2000). "The Demise of the Superconducting Super Collider". Physics in Perspective, 2(4), pp. 411–425. (subscription required)
- Riordan, Michael (Fall 2001). "A Tale of Two Cultures: Building the Superconducting Super Collider, 1988–1993". Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 32(1), pp. 125–144, doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2009.06.004
- Martin, Joseph D. (November 2015). "Fundamental Disputations: The Philosophical Debates that Governed American Physics, 1939–1993". Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences. 45 (5): 703–757.(subscription required)
- Drell, Sidney D., Chair. (May 2004). "The Superconducting Super Collider Project: A Summary" (archive of original. U.S. Department of Energy, High Energy Physics Advisory Panel's Subpanel on Vision for the Future of High Energy Physics.
- Wienands, H.-Ulrich, ed. (1997). "The SSC Low Energy Booster" IEEE Press. ISBN 0-7803-1164-7
- Cramer, John G. (1997) Einstein's Bridge, hard science fiction.
- "Photo Tour of the SSC facility (2003)".[dead link]
- "The High Water Mark of American Science". (photo tour). American Physical Society Physics Central blog, March 24, 2011.