ASK DR. SCHUND

Dr. Schund, given the political demise of the Superconducting SuperCollider, what frontiers remain for high energy physics?

The Standard Model seeks to unify the natal structure of matter upon a three pair quark foundation of down/up, strange/charm, bottom/top. The top quark is postulated to be so massive that only the largest colliding beam accelerator might transiently assemble the raw energy density necessary to pry it loose from virtuality. (SSC electron/positron center-of-mass energy of 40 TeV - about 40 million times the combined rest mass of two colliding particles - was planned.) The top quark will take an infinitesimally quick look around, gape in horror, and uncreate. It makes its ultra-fleeting existence known by spewing jets of hadrons from the process of its departure. Given a choice among subsidizing tobacco growers, fighting the War on Drugs, abetting Welfare fraud, or building a chisel to crack the substance of reality, the US Congress opted to boost funding for the first three to the utter exclusion of the fourth.

The real problem is obvious to Dr. Schund. What redneck cracker politician from, for instance, Arkansas ever saw an electron? Graft and corruption are concepts eloquent in their simplicity, unlike inquiries into the structure of reality. The answer is to build a Really Big Particle Accelerator that smashes together something much more tangible, like .22 caliber bullets.

The SSC was to guide and accelerate bunches of electrons and positrons using superconducting magnets cooled below 4.2 kelvins. Lead goes superconducting at seven kelvins. The Meisner Effect is the exclusion of magnetic flux from a superconducting body. We get levitation and acceleration as part of the low temperature deal! Giving the .22 round a niobium stannide jacket raises its critical quench field from 0.8 to >220 kilooersteds at 4.2 kelvins, and makes it much nicer and shinier for prototypes distributed as souvenirs at Congressional hearings. Did Bertram Richter ever give out positrons to help sell the SSC?

Turning corners at 0.99999 lightspeed is ticklish for a .22 round given its 224-fold increase in relativistic mass and the energy content of a bloated thermonuclear warhead. Skidding out would cancel insurance coverage. Drill axial conduits, immerse the bullet in a powerful magnetic field, and then cool it to superconductivity to trap magnetic flux threaded through it, forever. The SSC circular strategy prevails because magnetic fields in separate reference frames enjoy relativistic increase. Robust clamps to securely hold the guiding magnets plus OSHA-mandated air bags and hay bales, just in case, will do it! Unlike electric charges, magnetic fields are dipolar. By aligning paired magnetic bullets 180 degrees apart one accelerator will boost two Very Big Particles in opposite directions. Texas has a huge, deep, wide toroidal hole already waiting. All Dr. Schund asks is a piece of the action as consulting fees.

Imagine some years hence the opening of the Really Big Particle Accelerator. Two .22 caliber rounds glistening in their niobium stannide gilding enter the breach. Stupendous power plants, massive helium liquefiers, giant vacuum pumps, the largest most numerous superconducting magnets ever constructed on planet Earth... deeply inhale an energetic breath and... THEY'RE OFF!

A Remington .357 magnum 125 gr. (8.1 grams) semi-jacketed hollow point bullet goes from rest to muzzle velocity 442 m/sec (Mach 1.3) in 11.4 cm (4.5 inches). That is average 87,400 gees as a bullet rides down the barrel in 0.516 milliseconds. We can at least get the square of that given government funding of .22s! Lock and load. A second later (depending upon who is holding the clock, of course) two shiny slugs zinging along hard by lightspeed in opposite directions are set to kiss in the Really Big Particle Accelerator detector dais. KABLOOIE!

A substantial fraction of the cost of the SSC was the building of its detectors. Quantifying hadron jets in time, space, charge, momentum, and energy as they decay into streams of billions of elementary particles each fractional second costs more than a Congressional junket to Thailand to study safe sex. The Really Big Particle Collider, enjoying the benefits of economy of scale, will generate oodles of data using reams of recycled 1040 forms as multifoliated interception detectors and an aircraft hangar-full (Bell, California - ready to ship!) of government surplus Polaroid Land cameras to record for publication Very Big Particle interactions and the jets issuing therefrom. The most leaden prose on the planet, the Congressional Record, will used as shielding to avoid heavy metal contamination of the workplace.

Subtleties like Coriolis Effect and resolving Really Big Particle Accelerator bullet geometry (wad cutters, semi-jackets, Switzers, or hollow points?) will result in unavoidable cost overruns as experience is gained and additional layers of bureaucracy materialize. Admittedly small-minded people will squawk at the cost and the apparent insubstantiality of the knowledge to be so gained. Some will protest, "Can we afford to do this?" To these skeptics and malcontents Dr. Schund has but one answer: "Would you like to become a subcontractor?"


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