While Geneva, Switzerland is a half a word away, the confirmation yesterday by physicists at CERN that they had confirmed observation of a predicted particle, more widely known as the Higgs Boson, connects us all on a very elementary level. Beyond that, there are some very real Texas connections to the work conducted in Europe.
Houston Chronicle science writer Eric Berger interviewed Paul Padley, a Rice University physicist involved with program. Part of the International effort, Padley reminded us of the involvement of Texas institutions like Rice University and Texas A&M. When asked as to the scale of yesterday's announcement, Padley replied, “This could be the biggest physics discovery in 40 years. I suspect that 20 years from now we will look back at this discovery and say that is the day we started modifying our picture of the universe.” For the full interview, go here.
Yesterday's scientific discoveries could have taken an entirely different path had funding continued for the Superconducting Super Collider. First proposed in 1983, construction began in 1991 around Waxahachie, Texas for what ultimately would have been an even larger and more powerful “atom smasher” than the Large Hadron Collider which provided the bulk of the testing for yesterday's announcement. Nearly $2 billion was spent on the Texas based collider under Congress cut off its funding in 1993.
The unexpected shelving of the Superconducting Super Collider set back research on this branch of physics by nearly a decade, not to mention the displacement of numerous jobs. The site is now being reused by Magnablend, a company that specializes in blending customized chemicals for a variety of industries from oil to agriculture.
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize-winning UT-Austin physicist, was quoted by KUT as saying, “This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America. We are regretful that the United States Congress decided in this instance to turn its back on pushing forward the frontier of fundamental knowledge.”
At least UT-Austin can take pride in their Big-Ass F*ing Laser.
For pictures of the Texas SSC, click here.