The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) Story


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While an undergraduate student majoring in geology I had to take several physics courses. One Sunday morning (June 17th, 1984) there appeared a syndicated article in the Buffalo newspaper by Gary Blonston, about a proposal to construct a massive particle physics collider.

Until the Republic Steel plant closed in 1981, I had been a steelworker for eleven years, catching red hot steel bars with a large pair of tongs as we worked the steel through the rolling passes. With the demise of the steel industry, a university degree was my next move. Thousands of steelworkers in Buffalo and Lackawana were permanently unemployed. Buffalo needed new, clean, high-tech jobs.

Motivated to improve our community, I approached my physics professor - he scoffed at the idea of the Superconducting Super Collider being located near Buffalo. I spoke with the head of the the University of Buffalo research office who also said it was too big a project for Buffalo.

Undaunted, I then drafted a letter and distributed it to the political and business and university officials who would be the movers and shakers to make the idea a reality. I also sent a copy to the Canadian Dept. of Energy, Research and Technology Center, in Ottowa.

The PROPOSAL to locate the SSC near Buffalo became a reality. Buffalo almost won the bid. All the States in the Northeast endorsed the New York bid. Washington decided to award the bid to Texas because Vice-president Bush was from Texas, and Jim Wright, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was from Texas.

In a wacky way, one of my predictions proved to be true. In 1984 I said to a friend from Texas that her State would not be a suitable site for the SSC because of the fire ants there. (I had heard about the fire ant problem from a geology professor who had the misfortune to meet up with the critters while doing field work in Texas.)

After a brief start, with the budget deficit soaring, the project was canceled as too expensive.

A good overview of the SSC.

Pictures of the SSC tunneling project.

Some want to try for another SSC.

Some think the money would be a wise investment.

The U.S. Secretary of Energy agrees that we need an international approach.

Read a short analysis of why the SSC was abandoned.

Hear a National Public Radio book review about Herman Wouk's novel, A HOLE IN TEXAS, about the failed SSC project.