Q&A: Texas supercollider project scrapped

Texas supercollider abandoned

During the first President Bush's term, I remember hearing about a supercollider being built in Texas. Whatever happened with that? How much money was spent?

That would be the Supercolliding Super Conductor, the ring particle accelerator that was planned to be built in and around Waxahachie, Texas.

It was first proposed in 1983, went through a rigorous Department of Energy review and was awarded to Texas in 1988. Construction on the 54.1-mile tunnel began in 1991.

By 1993, 14.6 miles of tunnels had been built and 17 shafts sunk. But costs soared, from the original price tag of $4.4 billion in 1987 to more than $12 billion by 1993. Congress said it couldn't afford to continue, and canceled the project. Nearly $2 billion had already been spent.

While then-President Bill Clinton had not been an enthusiastic backer of the project that was pushed by his predecessors, Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the Democrat tried but failed to persuade Congress to finish the project because "abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science."

After the cancellation, the main site was sold to an investment group headed by the late J.B. Hunt for marketing as a data server site. The site remains unoccupied, though it is used occasionally for military exercises.

Ballad from Indiana, not Ireland

When my father came here from Scotland in 1921, he brought a songbook that had numerous pieces of sheet music bound together. One of the pieces was I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen, by T.J. Westendorf. What can you tell me about it?

The song was written in 1875 by Thomas P. Westendorf, a public school music teacher in Plainfield, Ind. The story goes that Westendorf's wife, Jennie (sometimes referred to as Jeanie), was away on a trip to her hometown of Ogdensburg, N.Y., and he wrote the song to express his loneliness and his feelings for her and a promise to take her back to the old country, where she presumably wanted to go.

It is considered an answer to another popular ballad of the time, Barney, Take Me Home Again, composed by George W. Persley and written by Arthur W. French. In 1876, it was said to be one of the two most popular songs in the United States, along with Grandfather's Clock.

Interestingly, the song is widely assumed to be an Irish ballad.

It has been recorded by such artists as Elvis Presley (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIsmkdYG5IU), Johnny Cash (www.jango.com/music/Johnny+Cash?l=0), Bing Crosby (http://popup.lala.com/popup/432627095091033838) and the Fureys (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjO8RpU4xCo), among others.

Q&A: Texas supercollider project scrapped 12/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 1:32pm]

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