Image Source: Ghost Hunting Theories.
Here is a loss the US government is not discussing as the Great Recession drags on, amid tedious political finger-pointing about how to invest properly in the economy. At Ghost Hunting Theories, Autumnforest recently reported on an unused Particle Collider that is up for sale for $6.5 million in Waxahachie, Texas. She writes: "Do you want 135 acres of Texas real estate complete with a 20-year-old facility built with the future hope of being a particle accelerator but never got completed? There are 8 buildings and 14 miles of underground tunnels. How much did your government spend on this debacle? A cool $2 billion." Before the recession, the facility was appraised as having a saleable value of $20 million, but the real estate market has hit it hard. (More reports: here, here and here.)
Here's the Real Estate announcement from Newmark Knight Frank, Global Real Estate Advisors:
Wired reported on this facility in 2009. In the 1980s, the Texas site was conceived to house the biggest particle accelerator in the world. Congress yanked the funding in 1993, ensuring that the world's biggest particle collider - and the future of scientific research in this field, with its vast potential for cheap energy sources as well as an array of commercial and defense applications - would end up in Europe at CERN. If there is one area of science that could change everything in our future, and is the basis of the whole Tech Revolution through which we are currently living, it is particle physics. There is a short history of particle accelerators, once called 'atom smashers,' here at Wiki.SUPERCONDUCTING SUPER COLLIDER Located about 30 miles south of Dallas, Texas, the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) is a scientific complex that was once a profoundly expensive dream of the U.S. Department of Energy in the late 1980's to house the world's largest and highest energy particle accelerator and its supporting facilities. Plans for the SSC included a proposed 54 miles of underground tunnels that would extend and eventually encircle the town of Waxahachie, Texas and also comprise approximately 213,000 square feet in supporting facilities, buildings and infrastructure improvements. Its approximate 135 acre site located west of Waxahachie was to be totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Construction of the multi-billion project began in 1991, but was subsequently halted in October 1993 due to spiraling estimated costs to complete (more than doubling to over $8 billion) and U.S. budget concerns. At the time of the project's cancellation, approximately $800 million had been spent to improve the site, complete the supporting facilities, and finish approximately 14 miles of the proposed tunnels. SSC is now for sale on an "as-is, where-is" basis. Hunt Ventures, advisor for the ownership entity, will be responsive to all credible offers. Offers without any or only minimal contingencies will receive strong consideration.
This is a classic example of politicians viewing scientific matters through ideological lenses, and mucking up long term projects that they don't understand. Wired has another related report here, entitled the 'Last Days of Big American Physics.' In February 2011, the American government denied funding to the Fermilab accelerator near Chicago, which, despite the existence of smaller US colliders that do different things, undermines US competitiveness in this field; Fermilab closed its Tevatron collider permanently in September 2011. As with NASA's ending the Space Shuttle program due to government cuts, there has been a serious crisis in American confidence with regard to the government's footing the huge bills for global-level scientific advances.
But the alternative - Big Business going it alone - is not so great, either. The problem remains that private companies cannot fund this level of research by themselves because it is so expensive. And if private companies grow enough to be able to do so, we will face corporate conglomerates of the kind that were featured in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy: business entities that are as powerful, or much, much more powerful, than nation-states or even groups of nation-states. It's worth contemplating that this alternative of unfettered corporations would likely spell the end of modern civic freedoms and governmental democracy in technologically advanced societies; as anyone who has read an employer's regulations manual knows, the internal legal principles that determine corporate governance and day-to-day management have few pretensions about being democratic.
Then there is the state-industrial mix. Is the current model of government-industrial cooperation, which ensures these endeavours, all that great? Not really. There is a sticky, predictably nasty politicized debate around Big Government and Big Science, with typical discussions here and here. The more science and tech advances we see in this century, the more the power, money and authority required to drive them will likely reflect a hybrid public-private model for Public Administration and Management. In time, that new model will potentially provide a whole new legal foundation of government. This is why it is worth keeping an eye on changing currents in Public Admin theory, you know, just in case we end up electing armies of public-corporate management consultants, government contractors and business administrators instead of actual representatives and legislators. The book excerpt below concerns one of these burgeoning Millennial grey areas. It is taken from S. P. Osbourne, The New Public Governance?: Emerging Perspectives on the Theory and Practice of Public Governance (Routledge 2010). This excerpt concerns a template of public-private hybridization over big research and investment projects; that template involves public contracts with private companies in the US Military and in the famous example of the Challenger disaster.
For now, as far as giant colliders are concerned, the US is playing catch-up. There are reports from late December 2011 that a new particle accelerator is being built in Batavia, Illinois, with US government funding (see here, here and here). It is due to be completed in 2013 or 2014.
Construction of new accelerator, Illinois, 16 December 2011. Image Source: Jeff Cagle/Sun-Times Media via Napierville Sun-Times.
As for the Texas facility, there are reports that its collider tunnels have been filled with water. See more images of the Texas accelerator facility from Wired below the jump (all photos below are by Jim Merithew/Wired.com). There are pictures of the site when it still had its equipment, here.
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