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The Almighty Buck Science

US Particle Colliders In Need of Funding 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-the-lights-on dept.
DevotedSkeptic writes "When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland seized the world record for the highest-energy collisions in 2010, it also sealed the fate of the leading US particle collider. The Tevatron, at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, was closed the following year to save money. Now, physicists at another US physics facility, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, are trying to avoid a similar end. On 13 August, researchers at the ALICE heavy-ion experiment at the LHC at CERN, Europe's particle-physics lab near Geneva, announced that they had created the hottest-ever man-made plasma of quarks and gluons. This eclipsed the record temperature achieved at RHIC two years earlier by 38%, and raised uncomfortable questions about RHIC's future. Tribble still hopes to avoid having to close any of the three facilities. In 2005, he notes, a similar crisis was averted after an advisory committee laid out the dire consequences of flat funding for the future of US nuclear science. In the end, Congress came through with the budgetary increases required. 'What we want to do here is to spell out what will be lost under different budgets,' he says. His committee is planning to hold a final meeting in November, in time to influence the budget requests from US funding agencies for the next fiscal year."
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US Particle Colliders In Need of Funding

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  • One word (Score:5, Funny)

    by famebait (450028) on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:13AM (#41188489)

    Kickstarter

    • I'm guessing they're looking for more than a few million dollars* - crowdfunding is probably not their best avenue, even if putting it on kickstarter or - and more likely because of the type of project it would be - indiegogo could bring it a lot more exposure (similar to the Tesla museum project).

      * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativistic_Heavy_Ion_Collider#Financial_information [wikipedia.org]
      "fiscal year 2007, requested: 143.3 million U.S. dollars"

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sique (173459)

      You know that the Tevatron was built with US$ 120 mio of 1983, meaning something about half a billion today? And that there were significant upgrades since then, costing another half a billion? And there are operating costs and much more. And it will never turn a profit, being a purely basic research facility. I don't know if you will get enough money for that on kickstarter.

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        Oh that depends on entirely on what benefits are offered, like you know how that Neil Stephenson sword fighting thing would give you a sword if you gave them a ton of cash?

        Well maybe this fancy new accelerator should offer stuff like "for donations over $1.000.000 you will get to place an object of your choosing in the path of the beam, for donations over $10.000.000 you will get to place yourself in the path of the beam, hopefully developing superpowers (and hopefully not supercancer or super radiation poi

        • by Type44Q (1233630)

          for donations over $10.000.000 you will get to place yourself in the path of the beam

          There are some people I can think of...

        • by mbone (558574)

          ...for donations over $10.000.000 you will get to place yourself in the path of the beam, hopefully developing superpowers (and hopefully not supercancer or super radiation poisoning)".

          I think that the outgassing from the vaporing flesh would ruin the vacuum containment system.

    • Exactly the first thing I thought about. If we can get thousands of dollars for video games that *likely* will not move society forward as a whole, we can get thousands of dollars for giant atom smashers.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Too bad they need millions not thousands.
        It would be a great way to show the government that the people care though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Three words: move to Switzerland

    • by aliquis (678370)

      Kickstarter

      But I already pledged all I could afford on the Mars project :(

      • by davetv (897037)
        Perhaps the LHA project could on-sell those non-higgs partial proton fragments to physicists who don't have access to a super-collider.

        Win for everyone!!
        • by aliquis (678370)

          Maybe we can fund it all with the central banks (and politics) instead.

          Let them kick the can out into space rather than down the road.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I know you're joking, but people sometimes seriously suggest donations/fundraising as a way to run facilities like DoE labs... but it's usually a bad idea.

      Specifically, it's not sustainable. Massive science experiments such as those run by the DoE need decades of commitment. Donations and fundraising are simply too variable and capricious to support them. Constantly shriking and growing budgets is wasteful, because you have to cyclically fire/hire personnel, mothball equipment and then pay to rebuild it, an

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        The sad thing is that taxes are starting to become a capricious and variable way of making science budgets too.

        Kickstarter is certainly a joke for things like this, but I don't think the idea is completely off-base, if it was done correctly and on a sufficient scale. I bet you could make a case to enough people to get this off the ground.

        Hell, you could make a kickstarter to simply raise a budget for a Stage I mass media project to support a later fundraising project. Your goal is to get X congressmen or

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Actually, you joke. But private funding is the way to go. If these things are really going to produce results, let's let them sell the rights to raise funding. Would keep them from closing, at least.

      • by drerwk (695572)
        Sell the rights to what? The exact mass value of a Higgs boson? The cross section of U-235 for neutron capture?
        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Companies pay for the right to name sports stadiums because that gets their company name talked about in the news constantly. The LHC gets talked about a lot too. They might well go for something like the Exxon-Mobil Large Hadron Collider or something. Stranger things have happened.

  • Maybe a personal crisis, if your government funded livelihood is at risk.

    But, there's absolutely nothing in the article which makes a compelling case. The best they can plead is "We can still do useful work here, even though we can't do anything unique."
    • by jpstanle (1604059)

      When it comes to cutting edge particle physics research, "We can still do useful work here," sounds like a pretty compelling case to me.

      • by msauve (701917)
        You must work for the government. Why pay once when you have the opportunity to pay twice!
    • by ultranova (717540)

      Maybe a personal crisis, if your government funded livelihood is at risk.

      Yes... so what do the scientists who can't work in the US because there's funding do? Move elsewhere. And with them goes the scientific edge, so technological, military and economic ones will soon follow.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sadly, politicians do not realise that.

    Research is about finding new things about the universe and this accelerator does not compete with that. They are different machines, made to examine different pieces of the universe and by adding the findings we learn more than if we had only one or two accelerators.

    Sadly, funding is tied to "highest energy", "longest tunnel", "highest temperature" and those who cancel the projects do not get that it actually is not about "Hehe, now we showed them damned europeans/ame

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      That's why I like the LHC...

      Everyone chips in and it's up to them to decide how to use their money. They don't have to keep going back every year to re-interview for their jobs.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Of course they realize it. That's why they're letting the Europeans do all the heavy-lifting at LHC. Why duplicate their efforts when they've agreed to foot the bill and share all the research?

    • They are different machines, made to examine different pieces of the universe and by adding the findings we learn more than if we had only one or two accelerators.

      Actually in the case of the Tevatron and the LHC that is not true. Once the LHC started up there was very little that the Tevatron could do that the LHC could not do a lot better. The two machines have a huge overlap in their physics programs. I am not sure whether that is true for RHIC as well since I am not a heavy ion guy but it would not surprise me. While it is true that electron-positron colliders have different physics programs we are comparing hadron colliders to other hadron colliders so the overl

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And this is why it was shortsighted to close down the SSC project before it was completed. All of this research could be taking place here in the US

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      What does it matter where it's taking place, as long as it's shared?

      • What does it matter where it's taking place, as long as it's shared?

        Because it's not just about knowledge sharing, but also about obtaining first-hand build-shit-of-uber-magnitude know-how (and the middle/upper-middle engineering/scientific jobs created in the process.)

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:34AM (#41188643) Journal

    (1) have the RHIC invade another country. It's the easiest way to spend several hundred million dollars "off the books"

    (2) spread the management and construction out over the territory of no less than 51 Senators and/or 220 Reps. Why do you think NASA is scattered all over the country? It's not because there are prime launch sites in TX, OH, and MD, among others.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:51AM (#41188781)

    ... it seems to me as an outsider. Which is ironic that it was science and engineering that created the USA as it is today. I don't know if its a dumbed down education system, lack of political direction or just a slowly growing luddite mentality. If it doesn't want to be an also-ran following in Chinas heals (as it already is in the manned space race now) then it better do something about it fast. But I won't hold my breath.

    • by Loughla (2531696)

      I won't say that it's a dumbed down education system that is causing this, but I will say that our education system is suffering. I don't know where along the way we decided to value hedge fund managers, investment bankers and stock traders over the people who teach our children, clean our streets and put out fires, but we're there.

      I do honestly believe that it has quite a bit to do with the undying stereotype of the bookworm. In recent months there has been quite a bit of coverage on the presidential race

      • by Barnoid (263111)

        I totally agree - and it's not just the US.

        I might also add that the technology helped quite a bit in dumbing us down in the sense that it enables us to know what's going on anywhere on the planet almost immediatly. Most (online) newspapers scramble to get those stories out as fast as possible which then leads to the situation where all news outlets present the exact same story by Reuters. I remember when newspapers still did their own stories. Now I even get live feeds from, say, the Apple-Samsung trial: "

    • by khallow (566160)
      It's the "free lunch" mentality. Be it in the corporate board room or the voting booth.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Dumbing down of education, standardized testing, homogenized media, the rise of religion based politics, an ever narrowing political spectrum in which science is nothing but a talking point... It's all of the above.

    • by labnet (457441)

      I think your government started ruling for corporations rather than the people. Eg. Creating faux wars to enrich a few sociopaths thus stripping money from the lower and middle classes.... Using 9/11 to strip away fundamental rights.. Plus you have become a lazy consumer society. The USA is on a slow slide to corporate fascism.

    • by khallow (566160)
      Keep in mind that the whole reason big physics projects are being threatened in the first place, is because it is of value to a large portion of the electorate. The political forces that are trying to preserve federal spending aren't going to threaten to take away, oh hypothetically, Halliburton "cost plus" reconstruction contracts in Iraq because that would trigger a "Hey, that's a great idea!" response from the typical US voter.
  • by quetwo (1203948) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:13AM (#41188959) Homepage

    One of the new projects, announced just months before CERN opened was the Federal Rare Isotopes Beam project in Lansing, Michigan. Since congress committed to funding it fully in 2008, it's only received a small portion of the full funding -- with the current congress kicking the pledges down the road year after year. Funding has been augmented for this facility by private investors, but that will also dilute the type of research this facility will be able to do once it is complete..

    • FRIB is being mismanaged into the ground, and in my opinion shouldn't be built anyway. Nuclear physics is turning into an expensive brain drain that steers bright students away from doing actual science. These days nuclear physics is basically alchemy. IAANP
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I just went on a RHIC tour on August 5th with my son. The tour guide said that one of the things that was special about the RHIC was that it can smash atoms of different types. For example they said that they could smash a gold atom into a uranium atom which is not possible at any of the other particle accelerators. I am just a layperson so I don't know if this is really unique but the tour was absolutely awesome. I thought that I would only be able to see this from a distance. But the tour guides (grad stu

  • They should put this on kick starter or something? I for one would be more than willing to donate to a US based facility. Granted its would prob only provide a small portion of their funding but would at least show the government that the people are more interested in furthering our understanding of science than we are in killing terrorists and spying on our own citizens. Just sayin.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:31AM (#41189175) Homepage Journal

    The TSA budget is $6.5 billion. Get rid of the TSA and their security theater and that will go a long way towards funding these scientific endeavors.

    I realize defunding the TSA will immediately allow the hordes of terrorists lurking in our country to go into action, but that is a chance we'll have to take if we want to slow or halt the downward spiral of science in this country.

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      The TSA budget is $6.5 billion. Get rid of the TSA and their security theater and that will go a long way towards funding these scientific endeavors.

      I realize defunding the TSA will immediately allow the hordes of terrorists lurking in our country to go into action, but that is a chance we'll have to take if we want to slow or halt the downward spiral of science in this country.

      But Michael Chertoff has 25 scanners on his dresser.

      He got to get paid.

      Strat

  • by organgtool (966989) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:39AM (#41189261)
    These physicists should get private funding instead of expecting the U.S. government to keep bailing them out. I'm sure there would be plenty of private companies looking to put money towards a project that would benefit humanity without ever making a profit. And if not, then that means there was nothing valuable to be gained and we haven't wasted any more money on such nonsense, right?
    • Not sure if trolling. There is a difference between "nothing valuable" and "nothing monetizable within 6 months".
  • ... the answer is privatization. The private sector can always do a better job than government, and is much more efficient! Republicans NEED to win this fall so that they can cut funding completely, cut harmful regulations on nuclear research, and get this country back to science's true mission, making money! ~
  • If there's one thing politicians of all flavors love it's jingoism. Maybe what we really need to do is reignite the sense of competitiveness by pointing out how the Europeans are leaving the US in the dust when it comes to making new discoveries like the Higgs Boson, and give them something to harp about to their voters when the US wins the race to make the next big discover.

  • I think I speak for a lot of scientists when I say we all could use more funding. This isn't to say there isn't enough money out there for us to do great things, but we all need to think hard about what we're doing and why.

    I know I've moved out of some research areas because I couldn't really make a compelling argument that society needed to invest in them right now.

    Maybe particle physicists should think about how many billions each year we really need to spend smashing things together at near the speed of

  • by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:17AM (#41189697) Homepage

    1. Get a patent for a round underground object
    2. Sue CERN
    3. Don't really need this step, it's just here for formatting.
    4. Profit!!!

  • US Particle Colliders In Need of Funding

    Get in line.

  • Install one of these [zoltarmachine.com].

  • The USA doesn't need the world's best particle collider. Our scientists need access to the world's best particle collider. It's much more efficient for several countries to fund one big machine than to have a giant competition for who has the bigger proton gun.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      In the scientific interest, I think it's good to have a second collider.

      One key aspect of the scientific method is that experiments are repeatable, preferably on a different machine. This to make sure there are no systemic errors, where you think you see something but actually it's an artifact of your machine. That artifact shouldn't be there on a different machine. So having a second one can be very useful, if only to confirm results, which while not as sexy as making the discovery is also important.

      On the

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        In the scientific interest, I think it's good to have a second collider.

        One key aspect of the scientific method is that experiments are repeatable, preferably on a different machine. This to make sure there are no systemic errors, where you think you see something but actually it's an artifact of your machine. That artifact shouldn't be there on a different machine. So having a second one can be very useful, if only to confirm results, which while not as sexy as making the discovery is also important.

        That, at least, is valid. But it doesn't mean the USA has to build it and certainly doesn't mean there's any scientific merit in doing it alone.

        On the other hand, COOPERATION is good, it's what drives people forward. It's what got people to the moon some decades ago.

        Fixed that for you.

        Now the problem of these colliders is of course the huge cost of building, maintaining and operating them. As a European I think it's cool that the biggest one is now in Europe, though it'd be even cooler if the US would be building an even bigger one. Or have some matching ones. Even if their power is less, I can't imagine that everything below the power levels reached by the LHC has been researched already.

        Or we could just keep Tevatron on line in that case.

    • From what I've seen, competition between accelerator projects leads to better machine performance. The SLAC B-factory / KEK-B competition resulted in both machines operating well above their design performance. I'm seeing similar effects with the new X-ray FELs. When there is no competition it is too easy for a lab to take an overly conservative approach.

      There is an advantage to having the cutting edge machines in your own country to attract the best scientists and engineers.

      In many ways the technology de

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        There is an advantage to having the cutting edge machines in your own country to attract the best scientists and engineers.

        I think that advantage might be outweighed by the cost of building and maintaining another $8,000,000,000 collider.

        These may seem somewhat esoteric devices, but there is $10s billion invested in them world wide and they are valuable for a variety of materials, biological and energy research.

        I can see that there was some materials and energy research involved, but biological? I think the biological implications of getting hit with a TeV proton are pretty clearly understood.

  • while LHC has higher energy. LHC will alays have to contend with bound free pair production which will limit its luminosity. RHIC can also do research with polarized proton collisions.

    Of the three projects, the Mich St FRIB is most likely to be cut as both RHIC and CEBAF have upgrades underway or nearly complete and have significant backlogs, up to a decade, of users with experimental plans. FRIB is still on the drawing board and thus can wait until better times.

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