Superconducting Super Collider
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Superconducting Super Collider

Hadron colliders
Ssc mdl.JPG
SSC site, 2008
Intersecting Storage RingsCERN, 1971-1984
Proton-Antiproton Collider (SPS)CERN, 1981-1991
ISABELLEBNL, cancelled in 1983
TevatronFermilab, 1987-2011
Superconducting Super ColliderCancelled in 1993
Relativistic Heavy Ion ColliderBNL, 2000-present
Large Hadron ColliderCERN, 2009-present
Future Circular ColliderProposed

The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) (also nicknamed the desertron[1]) 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. 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.[2] After 22.5 km (14 mi) of tunnel were bored and nearly two billion dollars were spent, the project was cancelled in 1993 due to budget problems.[3]

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.[4]Fermilab director and subsequent Nobel physics prizewinner Leon Lederman was a very prominent early supporter - some sources say the architect[5] or proposer[6] - of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime.[7][8]

An extensive U.S. Department of Energy review was done during the mid-1980s. Seventeen shafts were sunk and 23.5 km (14.6 mi) of tunnel were bored by late 1993.[3][9]

Partial construction and financial issues

A high-level schematic of the lab landscape during the final planning phases.

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.[3][10] A recurring argument was the contrast with NASA's contribution to the International Space Station (ISS), a similar dollar amount.[3] 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)[3] argued that the US could not afford both of them.

Estimates of the additional cost caused by not using existing physical and human infrastructure at Fermilab in Illinois range from $495 million to $3.28 billion.[11]

Leaders hoped to get financial support from Europe, Canada, Japan, Russia, and India. This was hindered by promotion of the project as promoting American superiority.[12] European funding remained at CERN, which was already working on the Large Hadron Collider. India pledged $50 million, but talks with Japan foundered over trade tensions in the automobile industry.[12] A US-Japanese trade mission where SSC funding was supposed to be discussed ended in the George H. W. Bush vomiting incident.[12]

Congress began appropriating annual funding for the project. In 1992, it was opposed by a majority of the House of Representatives (231-181), but was included in the final reconciled budget due to support in the Senate (62-32).[13] Early in 1993, a group supported by funds from project contractors organized a public relations campaign to lobby Congress directly in support of the project.[14] In February, the General Accounting Office reported a $630 million overrun in the $1.25 billion construction budget. By March, the New York Times reported the estimated total cost had grown to $8.4 billion.[13] 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.[14][15] The Inspector General investigated $500,000 in questionable expenses over three years, including $12,000 for Christmas parties, $25,000 for catered lunches, and $21,000 for the purchase and maintenance of office plants.[16] The report also concluded that there was inadequate documentation for $203 million in project spending, or 40% of the money spent up to that point.[17]

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".[18]


After $2 billion had been spent ($400 million by the host state of Texas, the rest by the Department of Energy[12]), the House of Representatives rejected funding on October 19, 1993, and Senate negotiators failed to restore it.[19] Following Rep. Jim Slattery's successful orchestration in the House,[19] President Clinton signed the bill that finally cancelled the project on October 30, 1993, stating regret at the "serious loss" for science.[20]

Many factors contributed to the cancellation:[3] rising cost estimates (to $12bn);[21] 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 and the end of the Cold War; belief that many smaller scientific experiments of equal merit could be funded for the same cost; Congress's desire to generally reduce spending (the United States was running a $255bn budget deficit); the reluctance of Texas Governor Ann Richards;[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

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.[3]

Leon Lederman, a promoter and advocate from its early days,[7][8] 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.[25]

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.[26] When the project was cancelled, 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.[27]

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.[28] However, the planned luminosity was only one tenth of the design luminosity of the LHC.

Although some claimed that the SSC cost was largely due to the massive civil engineering project of digging a huge tunnel, 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 ring circumference of the LHC is 27 km (17 mi), compared to the planned 87.1 kilometers (54.1 mi) of the SSC.

The LHC's advantage in terms of cost was the use of the pre-existing engineering infrastructure and 27 km long 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.[29] The LHC eventually cost the equivalent of about 5 billion US dollars to build. The total operating budget of CERN 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

View of the SSC site, 2008

After the project was cancelled, 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.[30]

In 2009, Collider Data Center had contracted with GVA Cawley to market the site as a data center.[31] In 2012, Chemical company Magnablend bought the property and facilities against some opposition from the local community.[32]. The buildings in the facility, which had become prime spots for thieves and drug parties, were renovated and were re-opened in 2013 by Magnablend. [33] The facility makes a range of oil field products for the energy service industry.

In popular culture

John G. Cramer's 1997 hard science fiction novel Einstein's Bridge centers around a fictional version of the Superconducting Super Collider.

A Hole In Texas is a 2004 novel by Herman Wouk, which describes the adventures of a high-energy physicist following the surprise announcement that a Chinese physicist had discovered the long-sought Higgs boson. Parts of the plot are based on the aborted Superconducting Super Collider project.

See also


  1. ^ 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 2011.
  2. ^ "In Memory of Louis Ianniello". JOM. Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. October 2005. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved 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)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Weinberg, Steven (May 10, 2012). "The Crisis of Big Science". New York Review of Books.
  4. ^ Hoddeson & Kolb 2001, p. 275.
  5. ^ 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 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
  6. ^ Hoddeson, Lillian; Kolb, Adrienne (2004). "Vision to reality: From Robert R. Wilson's frontier to Leon M. Lederman's Fermilab". Physics in Perspective. 5 (1): 67-86. arXiv:1110.0486. Bibcode:2003PhP.....5...67H. doi:10.1007/s000160300003. S2CID 118321614. Lederman also planned what he saw as Fermilab's next machine, the Superconducting SuperCollider (SSC)
  7. ^ a b 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: [1]
  8. ^ a b Kevles, Dan (Winter 1995). "Good-bye to the SSC: On the Life and Death of the Superconducting Super Collider" (PDF). Engineering & Science. California Institute of Technology. 58 (2): 16-25. Retrieved 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
  9. ^ Staff, Wire services (December 29, 2009). "Q & A: Texas supercollider project scrapped". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ Riddlesperger, Jim (February 26, 2010). "Jim Wright", West Texas Historical Association and East Texas Historical Association, joint meeting in Fort Worth, Texas
  11. ^ Michael Riordan (October 1, 2016). "A bridge too far: The demise of the Superconducting Super Collider". Physics Today. p. 48. doi:10.1063/PT.3.3329.
  12. ^ a b c d David Appell (October 15, 2013). "The Supercollider That Never Was". Scientific American.
  13. ^ a b Krauss, Clifford (March 31, 1993). "Budget Politics Exposed in Fight for Supercollider" – via
  14. ^ a b Wire Services (June 23, 1993). "Super Collider's first collision is with auditors". The Milwaukee Journal. p. A9. Retrieved 2010.
  15. ^ "The Superconducting Super Collider's Super Excesses". (PDF). Project on Government Oversight. June 7, 1993.
  16. ^ "Super-Collider Perks Under Investigation : Science: Documents show costly parties and catered lunches. Officials say expenses are legal but some were inappropriate". Los Angeles Times. June 10, 1993.
  17. ^ Hilts, Philip J. (July 1, 1993). "Energy Chief Says Accounting Problems Snag Supercollider Project" – via
  18. ^ Clinton, Bill (June 16, 1993). "Letter to Representative William H. Natcher on the Superconducting Super Collider" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 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."
  19. ^ a b Mittelstadt, Michelle (October 22, 1993). "Congress officially kills collider project". Sun Journal (Lewiston). MN. Associated Press. p. 7. Retrieved 2010.
  20. ^ "Stating Regret, Clinton Signs Bill That Kills Supercollider". The New York Times. October 31, 1993. Retrieved 2012.
  21. ^ "Whatever Happened to the Superconducting Super Collider?". The New Republic. December 13, 2011.
  22. ^ Trivelpiece, Alvin W. (2005). "Some Observations on DOE's Role in Megascience" (PDF). History of Physics Forum, American Physical Society. Retrieved 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)
  23. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "George Bush: "Remarks at the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory in Waxahachie, Texas," July 30, 1992". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  24. ^ 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. doi:10.1525/hsns.2015.45.5.703. JSTOR 10.1525/hsns.2015.45.5.703.(subscription required)
  25. ^ Calder, Nigel (2005). Magic Universe:A Grand Tour of Modern Science. pp. 369-370. ISBN 9780191622359. 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
  26. ^ 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. S2CID 22356593. Retrieved 2010.(subscription required)
  27. ^ 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. S2CID 177696856. Retrieved 2010.(subscription required)
  28. ^ "The Large Hadron Collider". CERN
  29. ^ Ananthaswamy, Anil (March 10, 2010). "It's the magnets, stupid: Why the LHC succeeded where the SSC failed". blog. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012.
  30. ^ Perez, Christine (August 18, 2006). "GVA Cawley to market former super collider". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved 2010. Collider Data Center, LLC.
  31. ^ GVA Cawley (August 16, 2006). "High Profile Superconducting Super Collider Project from Early 90s Sees New Life". Superconductor Week. Archived from the original (Press release) on May 19, 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  32. ^ Shipp, Brett (January 31, 2012). "Neighbors vow to fight chemical plant at Super Collider site". WFAA (Dallas, TX).
  33. ^ "Magnablend Reopens Former Superconducting Super Collider Facility In Waxahachie, TX". Business Facilities. August 9, 2013. Retrieved 2019.


External links

Coordinates: 32°21?51?N 96°56?38?W / 32.36417°N 96.94389°W / 32.36417; -96.94389

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