In your job what is the most interesting or unusual project that you have had a chance to work on?
I'd have to say that the most interesting project I ever worked on was the Superconducting Super Collider project. I worked on it a little bit, off and on, for a few years, and then full-time for about 5 years. It was a brand new accelerator laboratory that was being built just south of Dallas, Texas. Construction started in 1989, but was stopped in 1993. I was the 67th employee to be hired to work on it; when the project was canceled in 1993, there were over 2000 people at the laboratory. So, I was there at the very beginning and got to participate in a lot of very important design decisions for the project. Congress decided in October of 1993, however, that the national budget needed to be balanced, and that we couldn't afford to continue building it. (The total cost was going to be about $8 -- $10 Billion.) The main accelerator was to be 53 miles in circumference (we had already built 17 miles of tunnel for it -- about the size of the LHC in Europe!) and the energy of the protons would have been 20 times the energy of the Tevatron that I work on today at Fermilab. It would have been the largest scientific instrument ever built. Even though it was halted, it was certainly the most interesting and exciting project I have ever gotten to work on, and it was perhaps the most valuable experience of my career.
Thank you for the reply, and in your opinion do you think that it would have been more beneficial to us to complete that project or was it a good decision by the government to stop the project?
I think it was an unfortunate decision to stop the project. It was good to balance the budget, which the government should always try to do; but, I think it was a huge sacrifice to pull the plug on that project. Today, people look at the huge accelerator being built in Europe, and ask me, "Why aren't we building one that big?" And I have to tell them about the SSC project and its failure. So, I just hope people learn that it's important to do basic research -- for knowledge's sake and for the economy -- and that projects like this take a long time to build, that the pay-off can be huge, and that our representatives in Congress need to be told by the citizens that they (the citizens) think this is important.
Thank you so much for your reply!
i find it amazing that one can actually love what they do all of their life.
is there anything you've done in phisics that has been noted on a larger scale??
have you made any important breakthroughs or discoveries?
I am sorry to report that I haven't made any scientific "breakthroughs" or "discoveries" on a very large scale. That doesn't really happen too often in life, or to too many people. But, like most scientists, I've done my share of small increments in knowledge that have helped things along. For instance, the Top Quark is an important particle of nature that was discovered at Fermilab in 1995. To discover it, we had to collide protons and antiprotons together and this required very tiny beams of particles moving head-on toward each other. As we accelerate these particles, there are many things along their journey which try to make the beams larger, so we have to work very hard to keep them small. In the late 1980's I figured out one of the mechanisms that was making the beam too large, and re-designed a beam transport system to keep the beam smaller. This helped reduce the beam size by about a factor of two, and thus helped generate more collisions for the Tevatron. Did I discover the top quark? No, but I certainly helped make the discovery possible. We all do our part, and it's all important. In more recent years, I've worked further on these types of problems, and the rate at which the Tevatron collides particles is about 300 times what it was in 1990! Will we discover the Higgs particle before the LHC does? We'll see...