The international linear collider will be the most powerful, most precise probe of the universe ever constructed on the Earth. The Large Hadron Collider, currently in the final stages of construction, will crack open the Terascale. Most physicists believe, based on knowing where our current theory of nature fails to make sensible predictions, that there must be some new principles of nature at the Terascale. When the math fails, that’s the world’s way of telling you, “Hey . . . pssssst! Look over here!”
The ILC is the professional, the *Nettoyer*, that comes in and makes sense of the mess. New physics is usually a messy business. Thinking back to the meson zoo that we faced in the middle third of the 20th century, it wasn’t until the advent of the first linear accelerator at SLAC that we peered beyond the diversity of nature and were able to see the common ancestor of the meson zoo, the quarks. Bubble chambers, cloud chambers, and the fixed target experiments taught us about kaons and pions, baryons, and symmetries of nature. It was the electron machine that revealed the common ancestor from which these particles traced their lineage.
Just like the LHC, the ILC is a big expense. There’s no way around it, although these things can get cheaper if there are breakthroughs in detector and accelerator design. Still, you can’t take wishful thnking to the bank. It’s going to take a consensus of nations, and the physics communities within those nations, to make it so. It’s also going to take discoveries at the LHC, whatever they might be, to make the final motivating push for the ILC. Of late, there have been many corners of government that have been talking about the “ITER Model” as a means to a successful large-scale and high-expense facility. ITER is a thermonuclear fusion reactor experiment intended as a testbed for what might one day become fusion technology. It’s a multi-billion, many nation project. Only a few years ago came the decision to site it in France, and the U.S. has been at times a member of and an ex-member of the collaboration.
Despite years of wrangling, and U.S. polticians’ “hot and cold” involvement with the experiment, it’s seen as a success. It’s been supported by its member nations, it’s been sited, and most recently the funding appears to have come out of the end of the pipeline [ITERFunding]. While my own community of particle physicists have long snickered at the experience of ITER, it’s time to wake up. ITER is a success politically and financially. Whether it’s an experimental success will take many years to find out, but just to get the damn thing sited and funded is a triumph. The politicans recognize this, and I hope that my own community can do so soon. Better to pattern yourself after a rocky success than a polished failure.
.. [ITERFunding] “http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/21/1849223”:http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/21/1849223