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Budget crunch could prematurely shutter Tevatron

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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FNAL Tevatron, aerial viewIt has been a rough 2011 for the physicists working on the Tevatron, the top particle collider in the U.S. and the second most powerful in the world after Europe’s Large Hadron Collider. On January 10, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which operates the Tevatron, announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) had denied a proposed three-year extension of the collider. The particle physics giant, then, would be retired in the fall of 2011.

Now things are looking even bleaker for Fermilab and the Tevatron. The Fermilab Neighborhood blog reports that lab director Pier Oddone said at an all-hands meeting February 15 that budget cuts proposed in the House of Representatives would force a number of drastic measures at Fermilab. Among them: an immediate shutdown of all accelerators, two-month staff furloughs, and probable layoffs of some 400 employees. (A PowerPoint of Oddone’s talk is available here.)

The budget bill, HR 1, which was introduced by the House Appropriations Committee February 11, contains more than $100 billion in total cuts from the budget request for 2011 that President Obama submitted over a year ago. Of those cuts, more than $1.1 billion comes from the DoE science budget, a roughly 20 percent reduction from 2010 levels.

The budget submitted by the Obama administration, on the other hand, would increase the DoE science budget by 4.4 percent, an outlay that would likely allow the Tevatron to run until September as planned.

The government is now well into the 2011 fiscal year, which began October 1, 2010, without a budget in place; agencies have been operating on a series of extensions that funded them at 2010 levels. (The latest extension expires March 4.) So whatever cost-cutting measures are enacted in the final budget bill will have roughly double the effect. If Fermilab, for instance, has to cut 20 percent of its annual budget with only six or seven months’ notice, the lab will have to slash its expenditures by 35 to 40 percent over the remainder of the year to meet that target.

Photo and diagram of Tevatron: Fermilab





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  1. 1. dbtinc 8:31 am 02/21/2011

    Plenty of $ for Iwreck and Afghanistan. Maybe NASA can donate a few dollars to the Tevatron project from some of the worthless manned missions or space station.

    Link to this
  2. 2. rlthorn 1:01 pm 02/21/2011

    Could there be anything more foolish. Everyone needs to indicate to this seemingly science illiterate Congress the desperate need for continuing scientific research in all areas for it is only there that we might find our salvation, if we can find such salvation anywhere.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jtdwyer 3:57 pm 02/21/2011

    So, if the EU can afford to bail out Ireland & other countries while continuing to pay for the enormous LHC staff & utilities, why can’t we continue to bang stuff together while still bailing out Wall Street & Detroit? They might discover that the Higgs boson & dark matter don’t exist before we can! We haven’t even started on dark energy, yet!

    Don’t tell me we’ve got to bail out the EU!

    Link to this
  4. 4. jtdwyer 3:57 pm 02/21/2011

    So, if the EU can afford to bail out Ireland & other countries while continuing to pay for the enormous LHC staff & utilities, why can’t we continue to bang stuff together while still bailing out Wall Street & Detroit? They might discover that the Higgs boson & dark matter don’t exist before we can! We haven’t even started on dark energy, yet!

    Don’t tell me we’ve got to bail out the EU!

    Link to this
  5. 5. scientific earthling 6:04 pm 02/21/2011

    The fairy in the sky people win, but the win is only temporary. The elephant on the planet is population, the unthinking kind. Not long before our population reach 7G, this massive population is destroying the bio-sphere and is the main driver of climate change and the sixth extinction. Just let it run its course.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Elderlybloke 6:10 pm 02/21/2011

    You should know the politicians have not the slightest understanding or respect for science.

    America is going down the Toilet, as other countries ,in Asia are aware of the importance of science in the 21st century,and are beginning to outperform USA.

    PS. When will USA stop spending colossal amounts of money on "Defense" (read War)?

    Link to this
  7. 7. jhodapp 11:05 pm 02/21/2011

    Why not turn Fermi into a non-profit science foundation and leave the government behind. You can’t rely on politicians to consistently fund science. Let’s get the public to donate who truly care about science as well as court some wealthy individuals to partner with Fermi. The other idea is to turn it into a for profit company that would sustain itself.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Elderlybloke 1:12 am 02/22/2011

    A few decades ago when the IRA Terrorists were murdering people in Britain, there was no escalation of military spending there.
    Germany , Italy and France all has a period of Terrorists
    killing their citizens , but they did not go in for massive military expenditure.

    America did not care about any of these terrorist acts, expected the whole world to become the "coalition of the willing".
    Which is better referred to as the "coalition of the coerced" .

    Link to this
  9. 9. Carlyle 7:36 am 02/22/2011

    I agree. Try Australia. Last week I flew across the continent. Over five hours flight time. Less than an hour of the time including landing & takeoff at major cities could more than one building be seen at a time & for the majority of the time not even one building. Brisbane, Perth.

    Link to this
  10. 10. RichardMitnick 6:33 pm 02/24/2011

    I really do not think that the shutting down of the Tevatron is premature. It has done one heck of a job at it’s 1TeV power. It is in the scientific world ancient. FermiLab has much future on its plate if it is not gutted by the idiots in Congress.

    Link to this
  11. 11. nikolab 4:28 pm 02/25/2011

    The defense budget is way more than it needs to be to defend from terrorists. Do you honestly believe that we need to have the rest of the worlds combined defense spending combined, as our defense budget? We are stuck in a cold war mentality where we believe we could be massively attacked at any moment. But the reality is, that we are most likely going to be attacked by a couple extremists with small arms. We don’t need such a huge defense budget to defend from that. We have a larger budget than we even did in the cold war, and to protect from what? The Soviets were surely a much larger threat than extremists and a couple rogue states.

    Have you not already seen the effect of our population on the earth? Our species has learned to manipulate our surroundings to such an extent that with such a large population we can affect the earth as a whole. When I look out of a cross country flight, I see huge acres of farmland, with one type of crop, dedicate to a couple people. Now extrapolate that to a global scale, we are talking about a large amount of modification to the soil and the affect on biodiversity. Then add the chemicals associated with farming, and the shipping for the food, and you have a whole mess of environment affecting practices. I’m not even mentioning other worse things, such as oil/gas production and burning, the amount of cars, and the affects our cities have on wildlife.

    I would prefer that you were able to open your eyes to the larger picture, rather than have us take a cross country flight and only count the people, and not their affect on their surroundings. Also there is no reason to assume that someone is doing drugs because they have a view that does not agree with yours. And you even create a problem in your argument, "Be sure to visit the different continents as well." By that logic if I went to Asia and visited India, you would say that there wasn’t any overcrowding and massive pollution. Go to Mumbai and come back and tell us with a straight face that over population does not lead to affecting the environment.

    Link to this

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