Buzz Blog

The High Water Mark of American Science

Thursday, March 24, 2011
By Quantum and Flash Modin

In the 1980s the Department of Energy started to design what would have been the biggest science experiment in the world, the Superconducting Super Collider. Waxahachie, Texas was all set to host a particle accelerator that would have dwarfed Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider, today's reigning champ. Construction began in 1991, then was abruptly canceled in 1993.

The SSC was designed to collide protons and anti-protons at energies of 40 TeV, today the LHC can only ever hope to reach 14 TeV. The LHC has tunnels 17 miles in circumference; the SSC would have been more than 54 miles.

Congress pulled the plug in 1993 for a couple reasons. The projected budget swelled from about $4.4 billion to $12 billion. Political support for the project had always been shaky, and it essentially came down to whether Congress wanted to fund the International Space Station, or the SSC. The ISS won out.

Today the old SSC site sits rusting away. No one wants to buy the derelict buildings, so they are slowly rotting into the Texas prairie. Workers had drilled over 14 miles of tunnels underground.



During a lull in this year’s March Meeting in Dallas, we set off to explore the dilapidated facility. Here’s what we found…

Driving up to the facility we could see the remains of the complex from the road. The site we explored was mostly where technicians would manufacture the magnets and assemble beamlines.

Photo from its heyday.


And today.







The first building we looked at was once used to house gigantic dewars holding liquid nitrogen to keep the superconducting magnets cold.



Today all of the equipment has been removed, leaving only deep pits behind.





At one end of the building was a long room that was once used to test the long beam lines.



Today, not much is left.





Outside we were able to climb and get a higher vantage point.





Derelict equipment was all over the place.



The old interior of the Magnet Development Laboratory where technicians coiled superconducting niobium wires to make powerful magnets.



Once again, very little remains.



Huge augers and drilling machines bore miles of tunnels underground.



These old access points have long been filled in.



Here is where our journey to the depths of the lab came to an end. Inside the last building we explored, giant old fans generators now lay idle that once would have been used to circulate air along the tunnels provide backup power in the event of a blackout.



We weren't able to make our way into the tunnels, but they're largely filled in now. Six inches of water lay at the bottom of one staircase leading down to what looks like an old circuit breaker room. The underground sections of the complex are beneath the water table. If water level was this high this close to the surface, the tunnels that were far deeper underground are almost certainly filled with water.







Posted by quantum

98 Comments:

Anonymous said...

It was a great place to work. Lots of wonderful people worked there in the PRD, CCD and FD. It was a sad day when we learnd it was to be closed.
Aloha
Tom Lynch

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM


Anonymous said...

I bet you're real popular at parties.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 2:34 PM


Anonymous said...

Used to work with a guy who surveyed and mapped those tunnels out. He was telling me when the funding was pulled, and work came to a halt, all the contractors were paid in full for all equipment (generators, rigs, machines, tools, everthing new and old)and it all still remains in the tunnels. There were 3 or 4 contractors working from different points along the path in the same direction. Once equipment was lowered in by crane and down into the depths, it never saw the light of day again.

Its really kind of sad. This project could have been significant aide in the production of positrons for future fuel sources. Those little guys pack enough punch to take humans to Mars in as litte as 45 days. At least thats what the research shows. Just sayin.

Friday, August 3, 2012 at 11:17 AM


Anonymous said...

Funny The Generators look New ?? Can you say SECRET FEMA BASE .... The Tunnels are NOT Filled In and the Sheriff's Office across the Street from the site seems Odd. FEMA and CIA what are you doing underground with all those Fancy Generators and OH BY THE WAY your transformers are all hot ..... must be using lots of Power huh Folks ... SECRET BASES well use to be.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM


Anonymous said...

Yes I remember Michigan was in the running for the site also.
Texas was chosen for it's vastly superior ground qualities- Ha
HA! The tunnels are under water! Should have picked Mich.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 10:12 AM


Anonymous said...

to anonymous nov 1, 2011 10:18am
you need to get a life dude! you should see how silly your comment is?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 10:07 AM


Anonymous said...

That is too bad that you did. Potentially understanding how mass comes into the standard model is a worthy question.

$100K per physics PhD is a ridiculous idea, though, unless you are suggesting that lasers be strapped to the heads of sharks. That way, they can look for the Higgs boson in a large tank of purified water underground. Now that would be a reasonable way to find the Higgs - NOT!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:25 PM


Anonymous said...

All science is worth doing. This was hardly a boondoggle.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:08 PM


Anonymous said...

To the guy threatening criminal charges for trespassing, are you part of the magnablend company that bought the facility?
Would you allow a tour of the place?
Also, did you buy the facility about 3 miles to the south of this main campus, which has the tunnel access?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM


Anonymous said...

Dear The Owner --

We, the Electric Mole People of Modar (AKA: Your Soon-To-Be Alien Masters. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!) want you to know that we have been secretly using what you mistakenly think is YOUR property for our own nefarious deeds (see: "bwa-ha-ha-ha!" above) for quite a long while . . . longer than you have, you absentee owners. In fact, long enough to claim the place as our own. Manifest destiny, Earthling 1%-wanna-bes! Kings X! No taps back! Ours-eze! Woot!

By the way, would it really be that big of a deal to cut the freaking lawn around the Collider Site (AKA: Epicenter of Earthly DOOM!) once in a while. True, we aren't able to come out into the foetid atmosphere of Texas . . . YET, but it just looks so wrong to the FedEx and pizza delivery guys who bring us our vital supplies.

"Earthlings! You are DOOMED! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!" ("Earthlings! You are Doomed! Bwa-ha-ha-ha" is copyright 2012, Electric Mole People From Modar Earth Invasion Committee, LLP. All right reserved)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 6:49 PM


Buzz Skyline said...

That's interesting. Why are you in Kansas?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 1:40 PM


Anonymous said...

To the individuals who built this blogsite and visited the Collider site. We are the owners of the property and based on the photos I see you have taken, you have caused considerable damage that we will aggressively come after you for including the damage to the bay door you caused. Also, we will be looking to file criminal charges against each of you for breaking and entering since this is private property you were tresspassing on.

To anyone who thinks they want to visit this property. It is PRIVATE PROPERTY and if you are caught YOU WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. There is a sheriff's station across the street so you are highly likely to get caught if you are tresspassing. My advice to you is STAY AWAY from the property unless you have written permission from the owner to be there.

Sincerely,
The Owner

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM


HanlyBank™ said...

Hi friends,
I am an independent filmmaker making a documentary about end-of-the-world theories and pre-2012 hype. I am looking for someone loosely-connected to this facility to be a subject and show me around the space, even if its just the exterior, while I film it. Whoever posted about their son developing it into a skate-park is the perfect candidate. If you are somehow connected - janitor, used to work there, live nearby - please contact me! Thanks so much!

Hanly Banks
hanlybanks@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 3:58 PM


MichaelNLIssette said...

I used to work there.. the buildings didn't lead to the tunnels.. It didn't look like you found the Western LINAC facility. It was about 3-4 miles away from the western complex to the south. That DID lead to the tunnels. I think it was the coolest part of the existing site back in 1990-1993 when I was there. Another sad part of this story is how many families that were kicked off their land that had been in their families for generations.. They even moved historial houses off the land just to do this. I haven't seen the place since I left for the military in 95. I was blow away at it's condition.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 6:36 AM


Craig said...

Sad. Would have been so much more useful than the piece of crap prestige piece that the ISS is.

Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:44 PM


Tom said...

I'm amazed at the people who are opposed to basic science research. Flashback to 1897: "What a waste of money! They're studying electrons and atoms. Atoms are the tiniest pieces of matter, or so these eggheads say. What good are they? Electrons, so they say, are even tinier. Absolutely rubbish that our government is spending money on this type of research. What are the applications? We should be spending that money on..."

Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 11:44 PM


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these picture. What a cool place to explore. My son is working on his proposal to convert the site into a skate park.

Monday, April 4, 2011 at 12:35 AM


Salivate Like Tears said...

So many comments about government and how it should be or who did what.. Governments are made of the people they rule: in this case, THAT'S YOU!! Not Republican, or Democrat, YOU. You don't have to be one or the other, you can wear the skin of either and speak whatever you will - you CAN think for yourselves! This facility was sh*t-canned because it was friggin expensive, with the ultimate promise of a ~maybe~ as concerning the overall good. Space station = political unity with INTELLIGENT and POTENTIALLY HOSTILE enemies such as Russia. Good idea. (Kinda like making your daughter marry someone in an opposing tribe to keep the peace). There's all kinds of these places all over the world, from EVERY government. We're not screw-ups educationally because we TRY to be, either. But step back and see yourselves so tied to the red or blue party, with your black-and-white solutions or criticisms, and then you may begin to understand why education and culture have sagged; it's where discrimination and self-direction got forgotten by most Americans when they taught their children what was important and noble.

Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 9:37 PM


john said...

Think of what we could save if we abolished DHS and TSA...Dept of Insecurity and Transportation Sneaking *ss-pinchers...maybe enuf to build a modern SSC!

Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 12:21 AM


Anonymous said...

The sad end to this story. How unfortunate: http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2011_04_01_archive.html

Friday, April 1, 2011 at 11:04 AM


Anonymous said...

Please vote teabagging conservative repuglican so we can finish off what's left of the middle class. Rich and poor only, so people can see much clearer their place in life.
Middle class is unsustainable if we are to implement god's plan to make the rich even richer.
It's in the constitution.

Friday, April 1, 2011 at 8:55 AM


Anonymous said...

To people like Dutch001:

The problem with the government is they don't do all of those other things you say they could have done with the money for this facility. Well, you've gotten your wish this facilty is closed.

Some other things that probably float your boat, Bell Labs is gone, NASA is gutted, companies are building their new research facilites overseas.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 11:59 PM


Max said...

Flash, no worries. Some of those footprints were mine that you saw in the upper floors I am sure. I've been in all the buildings except one, towards the middle of the facility. Never did find a way into that one.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:41 PM


Anonymous said...

I find the irony of people carping about the lack of worth of government sponsored science on a government-created system using software derived from a government-created platform rather amusing.

Internet: DARPA. WWW: CERN. IC Chips: declassified for Project Apollo. Etc.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 2:44 PM


Anonymous said...

Liberalism had its chance and all it accomplished was to further destroy this country. Just look at African American culture for an example. Affirmative Action robbed them of their sense of accomplishment, welfare programs made them dependant, and Social Justice made them turn on each other and everyone else.

Liberal Ideology strips an individual of their personal responsibility and fosters and environment of blame where everyone is a victim. You've had control of the schools in this country for 30+ years and not only are they failing, but we are the lowest ranked amongst other industrialized nations. Your culture has increased in power and influence while the US plummets into despair and financial ruin. It's not just a correlation.

Liberalism claims to guarantee equality but the only thing it ever accomplished is equality of misery and self destruction.

This facility failed thanks to the Gov system which, by most measures, fails due to the same ills that plague Corporations in this country. Gov and big Corp are one and the same. Neither side of our politics will save us.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 1:54 PM