SSC Vote Is Good News For Profs.

Scientists Laud Vote Saving Atom Smasher

Members of the Harvard scientific community reacted favorably to Thursday's Senate vote that would give President Clinton $640 million of funding for the Texas Superconducting Supercollider (SSC), with one physics professor suggesting that the vote represents "a triumph of reason over symbolism."

The huge atom smasher, an underground tunnel which will measure 54 miles in circumference, is located about 30 miles south of Dallas. The $11 billion project is one fifth complete and should be finished within a decade.

Previously, the House voted to terminate the project, but the Senate voted Thursday to resurrect it. Professors yesterday said the SSC would lead to a better understanding of nature and its creation, and specifically of high energy physics.

Higgins Professor of Physics Sheldon L. Glashow, a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist--whose letter in favor of the SSC was read on the Senate floor before the vote--considers knowledge to be the sole benefit of this project.

While Glashow agreed that the project is a costly venture, he said "societyoften has to balance the cost of knowledge andresearch versus the benefits."

Physics Department Chair Howard M. Georgi '68was also delighted about the results of the Senatevote. Georgi believes it is unlikely that theresearch will produce any direct applications inthe near future.


But Georgi said "none of the theoreticalpictures [of atoms] we have [now] are very good;nature has probably done something more clever andwe need to look to see what it is."

Two other particle physicists, Mitchell Golden,assistant professor of physics, and MelissaFranklin, professor of physics, were morereserved.

"I think we are holding our breath because itstill has to go to a conference committee," Goldensaid. But he said he remained optimistic.

Franklin, who is participating in building partof the SSC, was thrilled at the news but expressedconcern that scientists would receive only part ofthe allocated funds.

SSC proponents dispute the claim that theproject should be delayed until the deficit isreduced. But Associate Professor of Physics EricD. Carlson maintained that delaying the projectwould mean firing those presently working on itand would only necessitate future rehiring.

Glashow agreed. "It is practically impossibleto wait. There is a community of people that knowhow to build these machines and a community ofexperimental physicists that know how to usethem."

"If we wait for 20 years," Glashow said, "thatcommunity will have decayed to the point where itwill be difficult to mount an experiment of thiskind."

Golden, however, played down the urgency of theproject, saying, "No one will die if it takesthree or four years longer."

The professors disagreed that funding suchenormous projects as the supercollider preventssmaller scale research projects from receivingmoney. They suggested that even if the projectwere killed, the funds would not reappear insmaller projects.

Many of the professors were worried that thepolitical debate over the project has exacerbateda popular trend against science.

Golden said that "there seems to be ananti-science, anti-intellectual sentiment that isstronger now than it was in the past." Franklinagreed, saying, "politics takes energy away frombuilding the supercollider.