Thursday, December 10, 2009

European collider breaks U.S. particle accelerator record

Sixteen years after the U.S. Congress killed the Superconducting Supercollider project, Europe's Large Hadron Collider has broken the record for highest energy particle accelerator.  From the New York Times:

Tiny spitfires of energy blossomed under the countryside outside Geneva late Tuesday night, heralding the arrival of a new European particle collider as the biggest, baddest physics machine in the world.

Scientists said that the new Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile loop underneath the Swiss-French border, had accelerated protons to energies of 1.2 trillion electron volts apiece and then crashed them together, eclipsing a record for collisions held by an American machine, the Tevatron, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. [snip]
This moment has been inevitable since fall 1993, when Congress canceled a behemoth project in Texas known as the Superconducting Supercollider, after estimated costs rose to $11 billion. That accelerator, designed at 54 miles and 20 trillion electron volts, would have been working by now and would have had an even greater reach for new physics than Europe’s machine. American physicists have reacted to the Large Hadron Collider with a mixture of excitement, good sportsmanship and wistfulness.
As we become increasingly desensitized to the trillions borrowed and spent by our elected representatives in Washington,  $11 billion seems a pittance by today's calculus.  The supercollider could have been funded with less than two weeks of interest payments on today's debt.  But in 1993, the Democrat-controlled congress killed it in the name of "deficit reduction", and America's leadership role in particle physics is likely gone forever.

You can find all the accelerator world records and other details at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory website here.  This statement was just added:

The LHC at CERN, as of 21:48 (CET) on Sunday, 29 November 2009, has surpassed the Tevatron as the highest-energy particle accelerator in the world, with a proton beam energy of 1.18 TeV. Of course, the Tevatron retains the record for the highest energy beam of antiprotons.

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