Energy Secretary John S. Herrington sees slippage in congressional support for construction of the $4.4-billion superconducting super-collider project, and some members of Congress have confirmed his assessment. That is alarming news, demanding an urgent response.
What is missing, Herrington told a symposium in Denver the other day, is an appreciation on Capitol Hill that the expenditure is a high priority. Rather, Herrington reports "apathy."
That may not be surprising at a time of flagging presidential leadership, a self-imposed budget crisis, and rising uncertainty about funds for most of the federal government's programs. But the Washington malaise will surely be translated into a serious national setback if this extraordinary opportunity is missed.
The construction of the 53-mile circular atom smasher comes recommended by a host of leading scientists who see it as essential to the pursuit of physics, a field in which U.S. research institutions have been in the vanguard. It is essential to breakthroughs in the understanding of matter. The very magnitude of the project would facilitate advances in the field of superconductivity, essential to creation of the magnetic fields for the giant machine and already a field of exciting new developments.