Why “Big Science” Is Worth the Cost

Why “Big Science” Is Worth the Cost

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Physicists at CERN delivered big news when they announced the almost certain discovery of the Higgs boson — the so-called “God particle” thought to be the key to the formation of matter, and life. They were able to detect what they believe to be the Higgs boson by firing particles around a giant, $10 billion circular tunnel at almost the speed of light, crashing them into each other and simulating conditions a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In 1991, an even bigger particle accelerator was under construction in Texas. But the multibillion-dollar Superconducting SuperCollider was cancelled by Congress in 1993.

In the current era of recession and retrenchment, funding for a next-generation particle accelerator will be an even harder sell, said Neal Lane, Baker Institute senior fellow in science and technology policy and former science adviser to President Bill Clinton, and “that’s to our country’s detriment. Elementary particle physics is one of the most fundamentally important areas of modern science. It helps us understand the basic laws of nature and the origins and makeup of the universe we live in.”

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