WASHINGTON—Two days after the end of an election campaign in which science was scarcely mentioned, the subject grabbed headlines when Energy Secretary John Herrington announced that Texas would be the site for the proposed superconducting supercollider. All of a sudden, politicians—especially those from Texas—were tripping over each other’s superlatives to praise basic research. “We need to reestablish the primacy of the United States in science,” thundered House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas). Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) chimed in with: “The American people have always supported science, and I think that they will do so again.” And Secretary Herrington proclaimed that the SSC is “the most important scientific project in this century.”

Stirring words indeed. But despite this new-found enthusiasm for science, the SSC proposal still faces major hurdles. Proponents of the unprecedented 40-trillion electron volt, proton-proton accelerator must convince Congress to spend $6 billion at a time when the. federal budget...

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