A 4.26-mile underground particle accelerator located in Batavia, Illinois may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature, but is scheduled to close down later this year.
For more than a year physicists have been studying what appears to be a “bump” in the data from Fermilab, which operates the powerful particle accelerator, Tevatron.
Despite finding a new particle, the particle accelerator is scheduled to close because of budgetary constraints. The Tevatron began its work in the mid 1980s, and is scheduled for shutdown in September when its funding runs dry.
Fermilab sought $100 million from the federal government to keep the accelerator running, but the Department of Energy rejected the lab’s request citing budget concerns.
To put the price of operating the particle accelerator in perspective, below are four things more costly than Fermilab’s Tevatron.
1. Airport checkpoint body scanners: The security tech company Rapiscan Systems was awarded a $315 million contract by the Transportation Security Administration in 2010 for body imaging systems that were deployed at some of the nation’s airports. Rapiscan’s contract could have kept the particle accelerator running for three years.
2. One day of the Afghan war: Under the Pentagon’s proposed budget, spending for the Afghan mission calls for $107.3 billion, or nearly $300 million a day. One weekend in Afghanistan could allow the accelerator to continue operating for six more years.
3. The war on drugs: The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s had a $15.5 billion budget in 2011. About half of the drug czar’s budget, $7.6 billion, was allocated to interdiction and domestic law enforcement. The money spent on targeting drug users and traffickers could fund the Tevatron for 76 years.
4. Extending the Bush tax cuts: The extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans brokered by the White House and Republicans in December 2010 cost an estimated $544.3 billion. The two year tax cut extension could have kept the Tevatron running for a whopping 5,443 years.
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