Friday, March 02, 2007

Possible Construction of ILC to be Delayed?

In the March 2, 2007 issue of Science, reality smacks into the fact of high energy physicists in the US.

American physicists want to build the ILC at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, and researchers had hoped to break ground in 2012 and fire up the ILC's beams of electrons and positrons in 2019. But last week, DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach told the government's High Energy Physics Advisory Panel to add 5 years or more to that timeline, extending a projected gap during which the United States will not have a particle smasher (see table).

Now I can't say that I'm totally surprised by this. I have mentioned before that funding for high energy physics during the past 10 have been very much neglected, in spite of all the advances and discoveries made. All of this leads to very much the end of any particle collider experiment in the US by the end of 2009. So the demotion of priority of the ILC is not a suprise. It merely reflects how much this area of physics is under-appreciated.

But what is amusing (some may even call it highly annoying), is Orbach's subsequent comment/suggestion:

Orbach asked the panel to bridge the gap with smaller-scale projects, a request that vexes researchers whose experiments were canceled in part to free up resources for the ILC.

..... Meanwhile, Orbach's call for a program of smaller projects evoked jeers from researchers whose experiments had been cut. "This is really stupid and very frustrating because we had a program," says Sheldon Stone, a physicist at Syracuse University in New York who worked on an experiment called BTeV that would have run at the Tevatron collider at Fermilab. In 2005, DOE nixed BTeV (Science, 11 February 2005, p. 832), and months later the National Science Foundation killed a pair of experiments known as RSVP that would have run at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York (Science, 19 August 2005, p. 1163). Last April, DOE joined a Chinese neutrino experiment rather than backing one at a nuclear reactor in Braidwood, Illinois.

I suppose one should get used to govt. officials telling us to do one thing, and then turn around and cut the funding for doing just that. Still, it is highly disappointing that they are still able to utter such thing with a straight face.


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