So they found it. The seat of mass in the universe. The little packet of information that tells us to fall down, to be drawn together and to fall apart. I’m hearing No-bells. At any rate, on this wonderful day in the history of science I wanted to take a moment and remind my American readers that this day would have taken place several years ago and be celebrated in North Texas if our congress had not killed the Superconducting Supercollider.
Who cares? I do. I care a whole bunch. My friend Fonsie gave me a book when we were teenagers- The God
Particle, by Leon Lederman, which was selling the project, albeit a bit ex post facto as the final nails had already been put into the coffin of the project’s funding. Clinton said a few words at the funeral. I was there, the flowers were nice. When I went to work in government I would sometimes sneak away to sit in on the various scientific committee meetings and listen to the shrill and pedantic begging of stamp collector scientists as they begged for more funding. I would hold my thumb and forefinger up in front of my face and crush their heads. They killed our supercollider more than the politicians did. Every climatologist, geneticist, and dendrochronologist that said we couldn’t afford the SSC, because their own “vital work” needed the funding shares the blame. A congressman once told me that, “You couldn’t kill a big public works bill in Texas even if it was useless- especially if it was useless, but that thing got it from all sides.” They should have called it The Ronald Reagan Superconducting Supercollider.
So why do I care. Science is, after all, an international affair that thrives best when allowed to flow freely without concern for national borders. I agree with that, but I live here. The SSC, with its 40 TeV (nearly three times more than LHC) would have been a vital lab for a generation and during that time thousands of school kids would visit, thousands of PhD’s would move to America and start families, and thousands of satellite installations would spring up. Intellectual centers change the place they’re in. Without Los Alamos, New Mexico wouldn’t be the PhD capital of America; it would be Arizona. The unintended consequences of science- pure science -are what we lost, and to every scientist that helped kill the SSC I say: Vous êtes un groupe de collectionneurs de timbres! I’m sure the people working at the Large Hadron Collider know what I mean.
Next up: I brag some more about correctly picking the Pontiff.