Foreseeing Brookhaven’s Scientific Future
- by Praveen Chaudhari
One result of the presentations made at the Quark Matter 2004 conference in January is that the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven has been making headlines recently, as the news media has been speculating whether or not RHIC has already made quark-gluon plasma (see related story). Science reporters at the meeting have also been wagering on whether or not RHIC experiments have detected the presence of a hypothesized precursor of quark-gluon plasma, called color glass condensate.
While those scientific questions await definitive answers based on unquestionable data taken during the present and upcoming heavy-ion runs by RHIC’s four experiments, another question — one that was first asked moments after RHIC received construction approval in 1990 — was answered last fall by the U.S. Department of Energy Spencer Abraham.
In June 2002, the Energy Secretary had informed us that Brookhaven’s next big facility will be the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. But the question “What is Brookhaven’s next big machine?” was just answered by DOE last November. In a news-making address to the National Press Club, Secretary Abraham told the nation that this national laboratory’s next big machines are three: RHIC II, NSLS II, and eRHIC.
In support of Brookhaven’s present and future operations, the President’s budget for fiscal year 2005 contains about a $30 million increase for Brookhaven. This includes $20.5 million for the continued design and first year’s construction of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (see discover Brookhaven, winter 2002-03), plus a 5.5 percent increase in funding for RHIC, which will help us get the most physics out of the present machine.
More good news is that the National Science Foundation has budgeted, one year earlier than anticipated, the initial $30 million for the next big experiment at Brookhaven’s Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS) accelerator: the Rare Symmetry Violating Processes (RSVP) experiment. By looking into the universe’s lack of symmetry between matter and anti-matter and into the possible existence of a universal fifth force, RSVP will build upon the AGS’s Nobel prize-producing ability as a high-energy, high-intensity proton accelerator, as well as the 1963 discovery of charge parity (CP) symmetry violation at the AGS which led to the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics.
In related news, Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA), which is the company founded in 1998 by Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute to manage and operate the Laboratory under contract with DOE, has been informed of the Energy Department’s intent to extend its agreement with BSA through April 2008. As it was noted, DOE will exercise its option to extend the contract “consistent with applicable regulations in recognition of the laboratory's superior performance.”
While past performance does not guarantee the future, I do believe, based on the promise of present and future research, facilities, and funding, that Brookhaven has solid scientific prospects before it.