WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 29 December 1989 Washington, DC
FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS FORCE A REEXAMINATION OF SSC PHYSICS!
"blue-ribbon" panel of physicists has been convened on very short
notice to advise DOE on the "range of useful machine parameters"
of the super collider. Specifically, they were asked: "Are there
some lower bounds of the technical parameters below which the
physics research would be scientifically unimportant, marginally
productive, or duplicative of ongoing or proposed work elsewhere?
How much physics potential would be lost by reducing the machine
energy below 20 TeV? Below 17 TeV? Below 15 TeV?" The charge
to the panel states that it is "imperative" that their answers be
received by 12 Jan 90. Sid Drell of Stanford and SLAC, who will
head the study, says the panel will be able to meet the deadline.
The sharply pointed questions and the short time horizon convey
a sense of crisis. Stories have circulated for several weeks that
to reliably achieve its stated goal of 20 TeV goal, the SSC would
have to be redesigned--with an increase in the sticker price of
about $2B. Trapped between the Deficit Reduction Act and George
Bush's pledge of no new taxes, DOE has its hands full just trying
to maintain funding at $5.9B. The dilemma is described in detail
by Irwin Goodwin in the next issue of Physics Today. He reports
that Energy Secretary Watkins told Roy Schwitters, Director of
the SSC, that the collider must be completed "as advertised" for
$5.9B. Holding the line on the budget means cutting back on the
energy. In the background looms the ample figure of Carlo Rubia,
who insists that CERN can do well enough for a lot less. Thus
the reference in the panel's charge to "proposed work elsewhere."
. ONLY A GREENHOUSE SKEPTIC COULD ENJOY THE WEATHER THIS WINTER.
The only thing scientists seem to agree on is that concentrations
of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere are exponentially
increasing with a doubling time of about 100 years. That sounds
alarming and many scientists and most of the public are alarmed.
But evidence of any warming thus far is hard to find except in
computer simulations. A pamphlet issued by the George C. Marshall
Institute argues that if there has been a 0.5 C temperature rise,
as some researchers claim, it is within the range expected from
cycles of solar activity. Critics protest that the pamphlet is
political, and given the fact that the last report issued by the
George C. Marshall Institute vouched for the feasibility of Star
Wars, they may have a point. Political or not, many scientists
agree that current models are too crude to justify major programs
to reduce emissions, and the Bush Administration has taken a go-slow
approach. But the calamity forecasters warn that by the time
we can measure the effect it may be too late to avoid a disaster.
Some Soviet scientists argue that a little warming would be good.
3. HAROLD HANSON IS RETIRING AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
of the House
Science, Space, and Technology Committee at the end of January. He is a former professor of physics and university administrator.