Supercollider Discussed

Director Tells Story of the Project's Disbanding

The director of the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) told about 250 people last night that the deficit, the end of the Cold War and an anti-science feeling led to the demise of the SSC.

"The time was just not right for this project," former Harvard professor of physics Roy F. Schwitters said in an address at Science Center B aimed at non-science-specialists.

Congress cancelled the SSC in October after about 20 percent of the necessary work had been completed.

Schwitters, who heralded the SSC in a speech at Harvard in 1989, said he and the project's administrators should have made more of an effort to sell the idea of science to the public.

Schwitters said critics of the SSC claimed the project's budget was spiralling out of control, rising from $3 billion to $12 billion.

But Schwitters said critics manipulated cost figures to arrive at that conclusion and said a more realistic updated budget would have been between six and eight billion dollars.

Schwitters also said the project did not get the support it needed from either President Clinton or Vice President Al Gore '69. "In the end, they had other priorities," he said.

Schwitters said the SSC was supposed to mark the next step in high-energy physics research and become a home to most of the young talent in particle physics.

With the termination of the project, Schwitters said many of the young post-doctoral students in physics decided to use their mathematical talents in financial services.

Another negative result of canceling the SSC was that it demonstrated an "[in] consistency of purpose" that the U.S. showed to theinternational community, Schwitters said.

The SSC was supposed to set a precedent forcollaboration with foreign countries on majorscience initiatives, Schwitters said.

Schwitters said a number of positive technicaladvancements occurred as a result of the workalready done on the SSC.

For instance, Schwitters said that as a resultof the research completed, the United States hasbecome the world's leader in superconductingmagnet technology.

The magnets developed are able to carry moreelectricity without melting, allowing greatermagnetic fields to be generated, thus savingmoney