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Pros and cons focus of physicists' debate

China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-16 07:45

Pros and cons focus of physicists' debate

Pros and cons focus of physicists' debate

Nobel prize winner in physics Yang Zhenning, 94, published an article on Zhihu, a social media website, on Sept 4, that criticized China's proposed next-generation particle collider project. Physicist Wang Yifang published a response. Here are some counterpoints.

Cost

The United States had a painful experience attempting to build a large collider (the Superconducting Super Collider). In 1989, the US started to construct the world's largest collider with an initial budget of $3 billion. Later, there were several increases to the budget that drove the cost up to $8 billion, which prompted protests. The US Congress called off the project, with $3 billion already wasted. So, building a large collider is like trying to fill a bottomless pit.

The construction of the Large Hadron Collider (in Switzerland by the European Organization for Nuclear Research), currently the world's largest collider, has taken many years and no less than $10 billion.

There are many reasons behind the failure of the Super conducting Super Collider, including a financial deficit, competition for funding with the International Space Station, political struggles and mismanagement.

A budget overrun was not the main reason. In addition, the US government's decision to stop the collider was a bad one, as it denied high-energy physicists in the US the opportunity to find the Higgs boson or to take a leading role in the field inter-nationally.

China has advantages in large-scale projects. We've made many achievements that the US couldn't have. Consequently, the failure of the US collider does not mean China will also fail.

Demand

Although the collider proposed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of High Energy Physics is expected to be funded by various countries, China will contribute a consider-able share. Although it's the second-largest country in terms of GDP, China is still a developing country with a per capita GDP less than that of Brazil or Malaysia. China has hundreds of millions of migrant workers as well as environmental, education and healthcare issues to solve, so it's not the time to spend such a large amount of money on a collider, which is not in urgent need.

Like any country, China must think about now and the future. The livelihood issue is already the main subject of government financial expenditure, but we must also think long term.

High-energy physics, as an iconic field in fundamental research, takes a broad range of measures to study the smallest structure of matter, which can accelerate the development of many advanced technologies such as superconductivity, micro-waves, vacuum and precision machinery. Constructing a large collider will see us take a leading role in high-energy physics and attract top experts from across the world.

Competition for funding

The construction of a large collider will surely squeeze grants for other fields of fundamental research, including life sciences, condensed matter physics and astrophysics.

As we become a more developed society, I believe there is still much room for an increase in fundamental research grants, which means the cost of the CEPC will not squeeze grants for other projects.

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