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Science News

International Super Collider Proposal 7

knightwolf writes: ""Particle Physicists Plan the Next Big Thing" - the New York Times online has an article describing the discussion around a new particle accelerator, including some commentary on the difficulties present in an international collaboration project. An interesting read - but it brings up other concerns - what about collaboration on other projects, such as software projects, internationally? Problems? Concerns? Major catastrophes?" Scientists fighting over a $6 billion expenditure - not a pretty sight.
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International Super Collider Proposal

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  • You are right, there are a number of accelerators around the world. Here is a list of major accelerators with their corresponding experiments:
    (Sorry, URLs don't work for me).

    What is important to understand is that the overlap between the different experiments, even at the same accelerator, is very little. People do research an a myrid of physics at each site. In addition, accelerators around the world are constantly upgrading their hardware, software, and detectors to use at "capacity."

    One of the reasons that scientists what a new accelerator built is because there are a number of areas of research that can only really be done with new equipment. While upgrading the old equipment does allow some of this new research, obviously someone (or someones) feel it would be better to build an accelerator with new hardware, software, and dectectors to conduct new research.

  • Sounds like a great idea to me, I mean if they can accellerate in such a small distance, then there's no worries about synchrotron radiation, etc. But then of course, you don't get all the synchrotron radiation to use with other studies.

    I'm actually rather surprised there aren't more people investigating this, as this could possibly allow super-high energy colliders that aren't that big at all. I think the main problem is that there are so many unsolved issues with plasma physics (I am doing some research on plasma simulation myself) and there seem to be a lot of tech issues to overcome as well. I hope to see one of thse things built in my lifetime though.
  • Aren't there already too many particle accelerators in the world? Why don't we use those to capacity before building another one. I obviously don't know what I'm talking about, so correct me peoples...
  • It seems to me that as accelerators become more and more expensive, it might be more cost-effective to devote accelerator funding to researching other classes of accelerator, instead of building larger and larger synchrotons and other conventional accelerators.

    I've been following the development of plasma accelerators with much interest. They have a much greater rate of acceleration of particles, which means that an accelerator of a given energy could be much smaller (and hence hopefuly cheaper) than a synchroton. A good paper discussing the merits and problems with current plasma accelerator designs is at [].

    Other promising types of accelerator almost certainly exist also.

    I'm not saying that synchrotons should be abandoned because they're bad; on the contrary, they work quite well. I'm arguing that it would be _cheaper_ to invest accelerator funding in developing new types of accelerator, as opposed to building ever-larger synchrotons.
  • In fact plasma and laser accelerators, while a very good idea being explored in many places, are not ready for prime time yet. Currently, they are NOT cheaper yet ... either to build or to operate. And they likely won't be for many years.

    My point is that for $6 billion you could, from scratch, build a plasma accelerator research facility the size of a university and fund it for years.

    The payoff from doing this would be at the very least advancement in plasma accelerator research, and possibly development of a practical plasma accelerator. This would vastly benefit all future accelerator projects.

    Spending $6 billion on a conventional accelerator won't provide this long-term benefit; future accelerators will still be extremely expensive. This is why I question the wisdom of *not* devoting the funding to accelerator design research, if that level of funding is available.
  • In fact plasma and laser accelerators, while a very good idea being explored in many places, are not ready for prime time yet. Currently, they are NOT cheaper yet ... either to build or to operate. And they likely won't be for many years.

    Although the article is not very clear on this point, the accelerator being discussed in this article is the "Next Linear Collider", or NLC. If built, it would be a linear electron positron collider, and not a synchrotron. Although suggestions to build a very large hadron collider (imaginatively titled the Very Large Hadron Collider, or VLHC :-) are currently also under design discussion.

    And the SLAC/Fermilab directors recommending siting an NLC in the US without consulting with the director of KEK has really pissed off the Japanese and has been a highlight of the conference so far.

  • the bigger the particle accelerator the higher the energies of particles that can be smashed together. actually, it's a bit more complicated than that; things like accelerator lifespan, different magnetic confinement techniques, new detector designs/geometries, particle production equipment and so on are also part of the equation. ultimately though, the longer the tube and the stronger the magnets, the greater the speed and the larger the mass of the particles that can be smashed together.

"Truth never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth." -- Milton