Though Congress is on the verge of putting the check in the mail for the supercollider, it really ought to back off and take a new look at the controversial project.
Call this suggestion an expression of sour grapes, if you will. After all, Utah put in a bid for the world's largest atom smasher only to lose out to Texas.But the fact remains that the price tag on the project has escalated alarmingly, the end of the increase may not be in sight, promised foreign financial contributions are not materializing, and the supercollider could hurt other research.
That's why the House Science Committee is planning to question assumptions underlying the supercollider's cost estimate, which went from $4.4 billion five years ago to $8.2 billion today.
The House panel is especially skeptical of claims by the Department of Energy that foreign contributions will cover more than $2 billion of the total cost. The trouble with that claim is that so far the DOE has failed to obtain any guarantees from other countries beyond a $50 million in-kind contribution from India.
Moreover, the higher the price rises, the more money and scientific manpower the supercollider drains away from other projects with more concrete and immediate benefits to the American economy.
The supercollider is supposed to unlock the secrets of matter and energy. Let's make sure that it doesn't just unlock the door to the U.S. Treasury.