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What Cost the Supercollider?

For decades, increasingly expensive particle-accelerator projects have been advocated in language almost identical to that now being used to promote the $6 billion superconducting supercoflider (SSC), including promises of "scientific leadership," "spin-offs," of technological and medical "breakthroughs," and so forth. But there is only meager evidence that past promises have been fulfilled and that present promises are any more credible. In a story on the SSC, The New York Times on January 19 s

Lawrence Cranberg
For decades, increasingly expensive particle-accelerator projects have been advocated in language almost identical to that now being used to promote the $6 billion superconducting supercoflider (SSC), including promises of "scientific leadership," "spin-offs," of technological and medical "breakthroughs," and so forth. But there is only meager evidence that past promises have been fulfilled and that present promises are any more credible. In a story on the SSC, The New York Times on January 19 states that nuclear magnetic resonance imaging for medical purposes is an offshoot of accelerator technology. That statement is false, as was an earlier statement that fast-timing technology owes its origin to high-energy physics.

Of course we need to put our best foot forward in the interests of science and technology, as the advocates of the SSC repeatedly state (see "Criteria for Scientific Choices," by Alvin M. Weinberg, Physics Today, March 1964). But that may be just...

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