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The Almighty Buck Science

US Particle Colliders In Need of Funding 133

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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  • Re:One word (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:26AM (#41188587) Homepage

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

    ... 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.

  • Re:One word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:15AM (#41188989)

    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, and so on. This is always disruptive, but for massive experiments (e.g. accelerator projects) it would be hugely wasteful. This is to say nothing of the fact that an uncertain funding environment will not attract the best talent.

    Another possible problem is that soliciting external donations is that it doesn't grow your budget--the higher-ups will simply use it as an excuse to cut part of your budget... leaving you in the exact same position you were in before (actually worse, because you are now depedent on different capricious funding streams). There are ways to pull in external funding from other agencies, but it must be done carefully and with support/guarantees from those providing the base funding (in this case, Department of Energy, which in turn is funded through congress).

    Disclosure: I work at Brookhaven National Lab. The above are my views and do not represent an official message from BNL or DoE (thus, posting AC).

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:31AM (#41189175) 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.

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)