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A Bridge Too Far? The Demise of the Superconducting Super Collider

Michael Riordan has taught the history of physics and technology at Stanford University and the University of California Santa Cruz. He is author/coauthor of three books in this area: The Hunting of the Quark, Crystal Fire (a history of the transistor), and most recently, Tunnel Visions: The Rise and Fall of the Superconducting Super Collider. Tunnel Visions is the definitive history of the SSC, a huge, multibillion-dollar high-energy physics project that was killed by Congress in October 1993 – five years after Congress had given the project a green light to begin construction. The SSC's principal physics goal was to discover the long-sought Higgs boson — or whatever else was responsible for imbuing elementary particles with their characteristic masses. But Congress terminated this project after its total estimated cost exceeded $10 billion and no major foreign contributions had yet been committed. What went wrong? What were the consequences for U.S. science, especially the large-scale projects that high-energy physics requires in trying to push back its scientific frontiers? Michael Riordan will share his thoughts on these complex issues.

Created April 27, 2016, Updated January 5, 2017