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Scientists Take Step Toward Building Gigantic Atom Smasher

September 19, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ In a project researchers herald as the biggest and costliest pure science project in history, scientists have taken the first major step toward building an atom smasher so big it would encircle New York City.

The scientists on Wednesday announced the selection of a key element of the machine, a type of superconducting magnet meant to keep speeding subatomic particles locked in a magnetic prison 60 miles in circumference.

Dr. James W. Cronin, a Nobel laureate in physics at the University of Chicago, said, ″All it really means is it is one narrowed-down option″ but the whole project still needs to be developed.

The decision marks a commitment to a specific design for the huge machine, which would be the world’s most powerful device for probing the heart of the atom and solving some of the long-standing enigmas of the scientific world.

Until now, the device, known as the Superconducting Super Collider, has been a vague goal pursued by hundreds of scientists who for the last two years have been investigating its feasibility and building prototype parts.

″One knows pretty well how to do this - one just has to do the engineering,″ Cronin said.

The machine is expected to cost from $3 billion to $6 billion and is to be completed in the mid-1990s. Scientists said the project would rival the Great Pyramids of Egypt and construction of the Panama Canal.

The project still must get congressional approval, but it is moving forward with the strong backing of the Reagan administration and the country’s leading physicists, according to a report into today’s editions of The New York Times.

Particle accelerators are used to break atoms and their constituent parts into smaller pieces by accelerating subatomic particles to nearly the speed of light and smashing them together.

The debris yields information about the fundamental building blocks of nature and the forces that hold the universe together.

Twenty states are competing to be chosen as a site for the huge machine, and Arizona has proposed three potential sites.

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