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Stanford Physics Lab in Budget Crisis

January 14, 1987|Associated Press

STANFORD — A shrinking budget has crippled research and shelved $200-million worth of equipment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, one of the nation's leading centers for high-energy physics research.

Officials at the center say they are facing one of the worst financial crises in its 25-year history as a result of federal cuts, and they specifically blame the drain on research money caused by "Star Wars" and other defense programs. Layoffs are possible, they say.

"We're in some danger of always building and never doing," said Burton Richter, director of the center and a 1976 Nobel laureate for his discovery of certain subatomic particles. "It's pretty bad if we build these machines and can't run them."

The center, located on the Stanford University campus but financed almost entirely by the federal government, spent $113 million on its new linear collider, designed to hurl beams of oppositely charged subatomic particles into head-on collisions. But the budget problems have delayed the scheduled opening until March, and there is only enough money to operate it at half-power for the first three months.

Even the machine that helped Richter win his Nobel Prize has been mothballed for a year. That is the $5.3-million Stanford positron-electron asymmetric ring.

"I am not in the least happy having it mothballed," said Charles Preston, head of the center's research division. "We have, shall we say, gotten caught in the budget deficit problems. We got caught in a meat grinder and got ground up."

Preston said scientific research nationwide is suffering.

"Why is so much spent on a 'Star Wars' program?" he asked.

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