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Chicago Tribune: Future science needs aid now
April 2, 2008
When I started hearing rumors last year that Congress might cut the high-energy physics budget, I never dreamed that it would be as bad as the whisperings suggested.
Unfortunately, my worst nightmare came true: The $500 billion spending bill, approved by Congress shortly before Christmas, cut $94 million in funding for high-energy physics—a field in which I study exotic particles that are way too small to be seen even with the most powerful microscope to determine how our universe is put together and the rules that it plays by.
America has a history of pushing the frontiers of knowledge, and in that quest, basic scientific research, including high-energy physics, has led to unforeseen technological advances in our society, such as the wildly popular iPod, global positioning system and MRI.
Despite the promise of such research, scientists are suffering.
Since last year's budget cuts, hundreds of scientists have been laid off or furloughed; their paychecks have been slashed; and critical research remains in limbo, sending the wrong message to students weighing whether to enter the field. We hope that this situation can be rectified with the passage of at least $510 million in emergency funding, which would also aid other areas of basic science research.
Kevin T. Pitts is an associate professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.