Superconducting Super Collider

Superconducting Super Collider

Hadron colliders
SSC site, 2008
Intersecting Storage Rings CERN, 1971–1984
Super Proton Synchrotron CERN, 1981–1984
ISABELLE BNL, cancelled in 1983
Tevatron Fermilab, 1987–2011
Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider BNL, 2000–present
Superconducting Super Collider Cancelled in 1993
Large Hadron Collider CERN, 2009–present
Very Large Hadron Collider Theoretical

The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) (also nicknamed the Desertron[1]) was a particle accelerator complex under construction in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas. Its planned ring circumference was 87.1 kilometers (54.1 mi) with an energy of 20 TeV per proton and was set to be the world's largest and most energetic. It would have surpassed the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider which has ring circumference 27 km (17 mi) and energy of 4-6 TeV per proton. The project's director was Roy Schwitters, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Louis Ianniello served as its first Project Director for 15 months.[2] The project was cancelled in 1993 due to budget problems.[3]


  • Proposal and development 1
  • Cancellation 2
    • Reactions to the cancellation 2.1
  • Comparison to the Large Hadron Collider 3
  • Current status of site 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Proposal and development

The system was first formally discussed in the December 1976 National Reference Designs Study, which examined the technical and economic feasibility of a machine with the design capacity of 20 TeV per proton.[4] Fermilab director and subsequent Nobel physics prizewinner Leon Lederman was a very prominent early supporter – some sources say the architect[5] or proposer[6] – of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime.[7][8]

An extensive U.S. Department of Energy review was done during the mid-1980s. Seventeen shafts were sunk and 23.5 km (14.6 mi) of tunnel were bored by late 1993.[3][9]


During the design and the first construction stage, a heated debate ensued about the high cost of the project. In 1987, Congress was told the project could be completed for $4.4 billion, and it gained the enthusiastic support of Project on Government Oversight released a draft audit report by the Department of Energy's Inspector General heavily criticizing the Super Collider for its high costs and poor management by officials in charge of it.[11][12]

A high-level schematic of the lab landscape during the final planning phases.

officially canceled the project October 21, 1993 after $2 billion had been spent.[13] Many factors contributed to the cancellation:[3] rising cost estimates (to $12bn);[14] poor management by physicists and [16]

Following Rep. Jim Slattery's successful orchestration in the House,[13] President Clinton signed the bill which finally cancelled the project on October 31, 1993, stating regret at the "serious loss" for science.[17]

Reactions to the cancellation

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, places the cancellation of the SSC in the context of a bigger national and global socio-economic crisis, including a general crisis in funding for science research and for the provision of adequate education, healthcare, transportation and communication infrastructure, and criminal justice and law enforcement.[3]

Leon Lederman, a promoter and advocate from its early days,[7][8] wrote his 1993 popular science book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? – which sought to promote awareness of the significance of the work which necessitated such a project – in the context of the project's last years and loss of congressional support.[18]

The closing of the SSC had adverse consequences for the southern part of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, and resulted in a mild recession, most evident in those parts of Dallas which lay south of the Trinity River.[19] When the project was canceled, 22.5 km (14.0 mi) of tunnel and 17 shafts to the surface were already dug, and nearly two billion dollars had already been spent on the massive facility.[20]

Comparison to the Large Hadron Collider

The SSC's planned collision energy of 2 x 20 = 40 TeV was roughly three times that of the 2 x 6.5 = 13 TeV (as of June 2015) of its European counterpart, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva.[21]

The SSC cost was due largely to the massive civil engineering project of digging a huge tunnel underground. The LHC, in contrast, took over the pre-existing engineering infrastructure and 27 km long underground cavern of the Large Electron–Positron Collider, and used innovative magnet designs to bend the higher energy particles into the available tunnel.[22] The LHC eventually cost the equivalent of about 5 billion US dollars to build.

Current status of site

View of the SSC site, 2008

After the project was canceled, the main site was deeded to Ellis County, Texas, and the county tried numerous times to sell the property. The property was finally sold in August 2006 to an investment group led by the late J.B. Hunt.[23] Collider Data Center has contracted with GVA Cawley to market the site as a data center.[24]

Chemical company Magnablend bought the property and facilities in 2012, against some opposition from the local community.[25]

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "In Memory of Louis Ianniello". JOM (Minerals, Metals & Materials Society). October 2005. Retrieved August 17, 2012. Ianniello initiated the effort to construct the Superconducting Supercollider as the first project director, established the organization, led the project through the first crucial 15 months defining the Texas site specific baseline, and led the project through initial Congressional approval  (archived at Highbeam)(subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g  
  4. ^ Hoddeson & Kolb 2001, p. 275.
  5. ^ Aschenbach, Joy (December 5, 1993). "No Resurrection in Sight for Moribund Super Collider : Science: Global financial partnerships could be the only way to salvage such a project. But some feel that Congress delivered a fatal blow.".  
  6. ^ Hoddeson, Lillian; Kolb, Adrienne. "Vision to reality: From Robert R. Wilson's frontier to Leon M. Lederman's Fermilab".  
  7. ^ a b Abbott, Charles (June 1987). "Illinois Issues journal, June 1987". p. 18. Lederman, who considers himself an unofficial propagandist for the super collider, said the SSC could reverse the physics brain drain in which bright young physicists have left America to work in Europe and elsewhere.  (direct link to article: [2]
  8. ^ a b Kevles, Dan. "Good-bye to the SSC: On the Life and Death of the Superconducting Super Collider" (PDF).  
  9. ^ Staff, Wire services (December 29, 2009). "Q & A: Texas supercollider project scrapped".  
  10. ^ Riddlesperger, Jim (February 26, 2010). "Jim Wright", West Texas Historical Association and East Texas Historical Association, joint meeting in Fort Worth, Texas
  11. ^ Wire Services (June 23, 1993). "Super Collider's first collision is with auditors".  
  12. ^ "The Superconducting Super Collider's Super Excesses". (PDF). Project on Government Oversight. June 7, 1993. 
  13. ^ a b Mittelstadt, Michelle (October 22, 1993). "Congress officially kills collider project".  
  14. ^
  15. ^ Trivelpiece, Alvin W. (2005). "Some Observations on DOE's Role in Megascience" (PDF). History of Physics Forum,   Trivelpiece recounts hearing "about a conversation between the Governor of Texas, the Honorable Ann Richards, and President Clinton early in his administration. He asked her if she wanted to fight for the SSC. She said no. That meant it would no longer be an administration imperative."(subscription required)
  16. ^   The letter reads in part, "As your Committee considers the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1994, I want you to know of my continuing support for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). ... Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science—a position unquestioned for generations. These are tough economic times, yet our Administration supports this project as a part of its broad investment package in science and technology. ... I ask you to support this important and challenging effort."
  17. ^ "Stating Regret, Clinton Signs Bill That Kills Supercollider". The New York Times. October 31, 1993. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  18. ^ Calder, Nigel (2005). Magic Universe:A Grand Tour of Modern Science. pp. 369–370. The possibility that the next big machine would create the Higgs became a carrot to dangle in front of funding agencies and politicians. A prominent American physicist, Leon lederman, advertised the Higgs as The God Particle in the title of a book published in 1993 ...Lederman was involved in a campaign to persuade the US government to continue funding the Superconducting Super Collider... the ink was not dry on Lederman's book before the US Congress decided to write off the billions of dollars already spent 
  19. ^ Mervis, Jeffrey (October 3, 2003). "Scientists are long gone, but bitter memories remain".  (subscription required)
  20. ^ Mervis, Jeffrey;  (subscription required)
  21. ^ "The Large Hadron Collider". CERN
  22. ^ Ananthaswamy, Anil (March 10, 2010). "It’s the magnets, stupid: Why the LHC succeeded where the SSC failed". blog. 
  23. ^ Perez, Christine (August 18, 2006). "GVA Cawley to market former super collider". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved July 11, 2010.  Collider Data Center, LLC.
  24. ^ GVA Cawley (August 16, 2006). "High Profile Superconducting Super Collider Project from Early 90's Sees New Life". Superconductor Week. Archived from the original (Press release) on May 19, 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2010. 
  25. ^ Shipp, Brett (January 31, 2012). "Neighbors vow to fight chemical plant at Super Collider site". WFAA (Dallas, TX).


  • Hoddeson, Lillian; Kolb, Adrienne W. (August 2001). "The superconducting Super Collider's Frontier Outpost, 1983–1988" (PDF). Fermilab: 271–310. 
  • Lederman, Leon; Teresi, Dick (1994). "The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?". Delta. ISBN 0-385-31211-3.
  • Wouk, Herman (2004). "A Hole In Texas", fiction. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-52590-1.
  • Sterling, Bruce (July 1994). "The Dead Collider". Fantasy & Science Fiction Science column. Issue #13, 1994.
  • Riordan, Michael (December 2000). "The Demise of the Superconducting Super Collider". Physics in Perspective, 2(4), pp. 411–425. (subscription required)
  • Riordan, Michael (Fall 2001). "A Tale of Two Cultures: Building the Superconducting Super Collider, 1988–1993". Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 32(1), pp. 125–144, doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2009.06.004
  • Drell, Sidney D., Chair. (May 2004). "The Superconducting Super Collider Project: A Summary" (archive of original. U.S. Department of Energy, High Energy Physics Advisory Panel's Subpanel on Vision for the Future of High Energy Physics.
  • Wienands, H.-Ulrich ed. (1997). "The SSC Low Energy Booster" IEEE Press. ISBN 0-7803-1164-7
  • Cramer, John G. (1997) Einstein's Bridge, hard science fiction.

External links

  • "Photo Tour of the SSC facility (2003)". Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. 
  • "The High Water Mark of American Science". (photo tour). American Physical Society Physics Central blog, March 24, 2011.