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The Sciences

Reprieve for Fermilab; Whither ITER?

Cosmic VarianceBy John ConwayJuly 2, 2008 9:35 PM

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President Bush signed into law Monday a bill that will provide $62.5M for high energy physics. At Fermilab this morning director Pier Oddone announced the end of plans for involuntary layoffs of some 140 employees at the lab. Any remaining funds, according to the language of the bill, can be used to support new neutrino research projects; the Nova experiment was among the casualties of the omnibus appropriations in late December 2007. This is fantastic news for Fermilab, where, with the LHC startup imminent, time is running out to make a dramatic new discovery. The Tevatron is running very well and the experiments are accumulating piles of high quality data. It's make-or-break time. The supplemental bill included $162 billion for funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and $3.6 billion of non-war-related funding. (So, somehow, this post I am writing here is reminding me of an old Monty Python skit, where a newscaster says "And now the news for Wombats. No wombats were killed today in an accident involving....") The supplemental bill failed to include the $160 million US contribution to ITER, and so leaves the US in default on our international agreement. This will compromise for years to come our ability to participate as a reliable partner in large international scientific projects.

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