THE HONORABLE JOHN H. GIBBONS, DIRECTOR
OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITE D STATES SENATE
August 4, 1993
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity toappear before you today in support of the superconducting supercollider (SSC).The Clinton Administration believes America's fu ture depends on continued,long-term support of research and development in science and technology. TheSSC is a big science project in a two-way squeeze. There is a general squeezeon public investment, and competition between big and small science. T oday Iwant to reiterate that the SSC satisfies three criteria for choice, firstmapped out by my ex- boss at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alvin Weinberg,that speak strongly for its continuation. It has scientific merit; ithas social m erit; and it has technological merit.
Scientific Merit of the Superconducting Supercollider
The SSC promises an answer to the question that has driven human progress forcenturies: How does the world work? What are the p rinciples that shape andgovern the physical universe? The search for an underlying simplicity andcoherence in a complex world led the ancient Greeks to the theory of "atoms,"and the inquiry continues today in a world constantly revolutionized bydisco veries in science and advances in technology. This search led IsaacNewton to discern the underlying orderliness of the world - to the laws ofmechanics and gravity and the mathematical principles that now are used todesign our machines, guide our rocke ts, and sustain our technological world.It led Michael Faraday and others through a study of electricity and magnetismthat ultimately "electrified" the world with radio, motors, TV and cellularphones. It captivated Curie, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, S chroedinger,Rutherford in the search for principles of atomic structure and quantummechanics, and brought us nuclear energy, MRI and a host of medical treatments,lasers and other technologies too innumerable to recount. The SSC is theculmination of s everal millennia of human inquiry into the basic constituentsof nature. studying smaller and smaller dimensions requires higher and higerenergy, and bigger and bigger devices.
The instrument known as the SSC will be used by scientists from arou nd theglobe to pursue many research venues. It will be the unquestioned, premierglobal flagship for research at the high energy frontier. Scientists will usethe SSC to examine why the known elementary particles -- electrons and quarks-- have the mas ses they do. Physicists have no theory to explain why quarksare heavier than electrons, or for why these particles have mass at all.
stanSince the 1960's, physicists have made great progress by combining theoryand experiment to explain and sy stematize the fundamental building blocks --particles -- that combine to form nuclei and atoms. Despite the impressiveprogress, a key ingredient in our understanding (a predicted heavy particleknown as the Higgs boson) remains to be tested experimenta lly, i.e., to beobserved. The realm in which this particle resides requires unprecedentedenergy and precise measurements. In the energy range the SSC is designed toprobe, we expect to resolve the prediction of Higgs, and we will likely runinto some unanticipated findings as well.
It is important to note that whenever more powerful accelerators come on line,totally unexpected things invariably occur. The Stanford Linear Acceleratorand Brookhaven National Laboratory unexpectedly discovered, in the 1970's, afamily of new particles known as the J, psi, and tau particles that completelyrevamped our underding of particle physics. Even the most confident physicistsknow they cannot predict everything interesting that will happen with the SSC. Some its greatest discoveries will undoubtedly be things we cannot even beginto anticipate today.
The SSC will also help resolve many other unanswered questions in science inthe process of finding new particles. For example, physics has had gr eatsuccess in showing that forces seemingly quite different are in fact twoaspects of a single force. Nineteenth century physicist James Clerk Maxwellshowed that the electric force and magnetism are actually two aspects of asingle force, electroma gnetism. Physicists working over the past 30years also devised a way to unify electromagnetism with the force responsiblefor radioactivity, known as the weak force, yielding the electroweakforce. The SSC may help physicists to unify electromagnetism and the weakforce with another known force in nature, the strong force, which holdsthe nuclei of atoms together, and, perhaps, also with the force ofgravity. If so, the SSC will enable a major step toward what physicist srefer to as the "grand unification" theory or the "theory of everything" --what Leon Lederman has described as a theory of the universe succinct enough toput on a tee shirt.
A number of fundamental questions about the universe remain unanswere d. Why,for example, is the universe not populated with antiparticles as well asparticles? The SSC will be a copious source of the b-quarks that physicistswish to study for clues to that mystery. Why does the universe exhibit theform astronomers see in their telescopes? The galaxies, including our MilkyWay, are clumped together in gigantic structures that look like immense bubblesin the universe. This large-scale structure seems to have originated justmillionths of a microsecond after the Big B ang that created the universe, andit seems to be related to the properties of elementary particles. Byrecreating some of the conditions that occurred very, very early in the BigBang, the SSC will help reveal why the universe, including our small corne r ofit, took its current form. One criterion for choice of "big science": does itilluminate other disciplines? SSC simultaneously addresses particle physics -the smallest end of the scale, and cosmology and astrophysics - the largest endof the scal e.
The SSC will keep the United States at the frontiers of particle physics andof human exploration of the unknown. It will embody the most noble aspects ofhuman curiosity and will be a sign to all that the United States intends toremain at th e vanguard of scientific discovery.
Social Merit of the Superconducting Supercollider
Often, a scientific activity has direct and immediate social impacts thatprecede any technological spinoffs or advances in scientific theory. Que stionsabout physics fascinate people from all walks of life and engage us inunexpected ways. So amazing did the so-called "Big Bang" seem to the maincharacters of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbs -- and so pedestrianscientists' name for it -- they suggested calling it "The Horrendous SpaceKablooie" and immediately generated a worldwide contest! A wonderful writerfrom Arkansas, Ellen Gilchrist, mesmerized radio audiences for months with hermusings on physics and entitled a popular book of short stories Light Can BeBoth Wave and Particle. The questions they posed reflect a timeless,universal eagerness to embrace and wrestle with cosmology, theoretical physicsand its implications for our daily lives -- how things work; how to thin k aboutourselves and the world of which we are a part.
Fortunately, some people actually choose to make a serious study of particle,or high energy, physics. High energy physics attracts some of the best andbrightest minds to science, and the S SC, like a super magnet, will attractthousands of young scientists and engineers from around the globe. In thefuture, many of them will stay in physics research, but if the pattern ofhistory holds, the majority are likely to apply their education and experiencesin new ways to diverse new problems. We have much to gain from the inspirationthe SSC offers gifted individuals. We must support the fields of scientificinquiry that challenge the most creative minds. An important social impact ofthe SSC is its contribution to the education and training of individuals likelyto influence the course of human history not only through science, but alsoother endeavors.
The SSC, if conducted as an international collaborative enterprise, will playa r ole in furthering international understanding and cooperation, anotherimportant social impact. High energy physics is one of those fields where thescientific community must mount decades-long, expensive "megaprojects" to probethe remaining fundamenta l secrets of the universe. In years gone by, we and anumber of other nations made unilateral commitments to megaprojects andabsorbed the costs in our growing R&D budgets. But this is no longerpossible -- for two reasons. First, we face major bud get constraints, imposedby the realization that we've already borrowed too much money from ourchildren; R&D funding cannot grow as it did in the past. Second, bigscience (and big technology) projects are so expensive that no one
nation -- no m atter how wealthy -- can afford to go it alone.
Strong beginnings have already been made to internationalize big scienceprojects. Last year, with strong U.S. leadership, the Organization forEconomic Co-operation and Development (OECD) establish ed a "Megascience Forum,"to examine megaprojects in all areas of science and to provide effective meansfor analysis and communication between diverse scientific communities andgovernments. The OECD Forum is a solid step toward a regime where all bigs cience and technology projects are truly international.
Looking back, it is easy to question the wisdom of the decision made by theUnited States to launch the SSC as a national effort. Although it is late inthe game, the Administration plans to work with Congress to use every sensiblemeasure to transform the SSC into a more completely international venture.Equities between nations must be addressed in this effort, andinternationalization of any given project, especially one as large as the S SC,cannot be considered in isolation. It will probably make sense to put otherbig science projects on the table for discussion at the same time. Projects infusion, nuclear physics, and space, as well as other high energy physicsexperiments, are amon g the candidates. Let me assure this Committee that wewill approach this challenge very carefully, and will work closely with theCongress and our foreign counterparts to bring this concept of shared andequitable responsibility for big science projects to the implementation stage.The whole world will benefit if we are successful.
Technological Merit of the Superconducting Supercollider
The SSC is a huge project at the cutting edge of technology. It is thelargest scientific inst rument ever built. It will undoubtedly result in someinventions that will be commercialized and pay back some fraction of its costsand operating budget. For example, the particle accelerators originallydeveloped to conduct physics experiments are now used in areas as varied asmedicine and the manufacture of integrated circuits. We can anticipate thatconstruction and operation of the SSC will result in important improvements insuperconducting magnets, tunnel drilling, precision surveying,complex s ystemsanalysis and controls, and data acquisition and analysis systems and yieldtotally unexpected new technologies.
Clinton Administration Support for the Superconducting Supercollider
Mr. Chairman, the Clinton Administration supp orts construction and operationof the SSC for the reasons I have just described. Support for the SSC:
1. Shows other nations the United States will not forsake its leadership ofthe world scientific community, a leadership that is cast increasin gly in aninternational context.
2. Reminds U.S. citizens that the pursuit of scientific and technologicalexcellence has created the world we know today and forms the most essentialbasis for economic prosperity.
3. Promises our children, at a time when we otherwise seem to be growingshort-sighted, that we will make the long-term investments in education,research and the pursuit of knowledge that will ensure a bright future forthem.
The most important benefits of the increased understanding gained from the SSCmay not be known for a generation. We can, however, be certain importantbenefits will result simply from making the effort. The SSC project willstimulate technologies in many areas critical for the health of the U.S. economy. The SSC will also produce critical employment and educationalopportunities for thousands of young engineers and scientists around thecountry and will attract to our shores some of the brightest and most creativeminds from around the world.
Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States iscompromising its position of leadership in basic science -- a positionunquestioned for generations. These are tough economic times. ThisAdministration is committed to defici t reduction, and also supports thisproject, as we announced early this past Spring, as part of its broadinvestment package in science and technology. Our support requires making surethat the project is well managed and that the Congress and the Admini strationis kept apprised of the full costs and of the anticipated benefits of theprogram. The stretched-out funding proposed by the Administration of $640million in FY '94 will allow better control of project costs, lower annualcosts for construction , and more time to enhance internationalization of thisfield of science.
The scientific, social, and technological merits of the SSC justify yourcontinued support for this project. We ask you to support this important andchallenging effort. I