Super-B Factory Killed !
    By Tommaso Dorigo | November 27th 2012 10:41 AM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Update: I got a confirmation that at the latest INFN board of directors meeting the news was given that the Super-B factory to be built outside Rome is no more. Super-B joins other remarkable projects in high-energy physics -notably the SSC, the American 40-TeV super-collider to be built in Texas, and killed by Congress in 1993- in the dust bin.

    With this move the Italian government shows again how little they care for basic research in Italy, and provides further fuel to the escape of bright researchers to other countries.

    Now the funny thing (yes, as if there was anything to laugh about) is that in principle INFN could still hope to propose within a few months a different project of a similar price tag -some say a tau-charm factory- to replace the dead Super-B, and still get it funded. I hope this does not happen: it would be a very bad idea for INFN to cook up in a short time scale a new project just to try and get their hands on some alternative funding. What we need is a strong physics case before we decide what course to take. And a strong physics case is not made to order because there is a train to catch!


    Unconfirmed voices say that the Super-B factory, a new ambitious project to construct a very high-intensity electron-positron collider aimed at producing large numbers of B hadrons, has been blocked by the Italian government.

    Super-B is designed to be constructed in the Rome suburbs, in the new "CabibboLab" in the campus of the Tor Vergata University, not far from the Frascati laboratories of INFN. The project is a direct competitor to SuperBelle, a parallel effort of similar design in construction at KEK in Japan. The study of rare processes with b-quarks is believed to shed new light in some of the mysteries of fundamental physics, in a way orthogonal to searches for new physics at the highest-energy frontier which are ongoing at the Large Hadron Collider.

    The investment in Super-B is a large fraction of the budget of research in High-Energy Physics in Italy, and the project is fighting a delay of a few years with respect to the Japanese endeavour. If funds are blocked, it may mean the end of the project. I will update this post when I get to know more of the situation.


    Hi Tommaso, in the past I have heard several comments by B-physics experts (I am not one of them, as you know, so I am not taking a position), obviously not involved in the Super-B project, saying that all the huge investment in this project was unjustified, because most of its physics program would be covered by LHCb (+ATLAS+CMS) and by Super-KEK which will be faster. The argument goes that in other times it would have been justified to invest on a second B-factory for the sake of confirmation and combination, but that given the tight and steadily decreasing INFN budget (and in the context of world-wide science budget cuts) it would be more rational to use that money to diversify the experimental landscape (or, depending on who is speaking, the argument would be to further invest on what already exists and is proven to work, like the LHC).

    Please keep in mind that I am not taking a position: the argument above sounds reasonable to me but I am aware that it is certainly biased (people who say that are in general competitors of Super-B, either in the sense of doing non-Super-B experiments or in the sense of competing for the same limited resources), and I am sincerely interested in hearing your counter-arguments, and possibly the opinion of other commenters.

    I am signing as anonymous to avoid to receive hate mails by Super-B proponents, but I filled the e-mail box so that you know who I am :)

    That sounds reasonable. As well as LHCb (+ LHCb upgrade), Belle-II and BES-III will cover a lot of what Super-B could do. Still, it's a shame! I think the more flavour physics experiments we have, the better :)

    Hi Anon,

    sorry but I did not get the email address so I still do not know who you are. Please send me a private message at tommaso.dorigo at gmail dot com.

    As for the comments, I sort of provided some personal views in another comment below...

    Hi Tommaso,

    i must agree with Anonymous@02:16 AM. What i mean is that rumors like: "Super-B is old and yet is not born" were common some month ago at conferences about Super-B among particle physicist not working on it.
    But that were rumors, and i'm wandering what you think about it...i will be very interested in some sort of discussion on that point.


    Okay. Yes, I have not expressed my opinions well enough in the post. I wanted to
    leave it for a post-mortem post, but here they are in a nutshell:

    - SuperB was a beautiful project, capable of giving new lymph to Italian HEP
    - The physics case of a super B factory was strong
    - delays were at least partly due to the inertia of the Italian government
    - LHCb and SuperBelle did make the project a bit redundant and also a bit late, but that does not by itself mean it was not money well spent (also thinking at the spin-offs)
    - the main concern I have is that I believe the cancelation of the project has very little to do with the above considerations, and much to do with Italian politics - pretty much like what happened to SSC. I cannot agree with a decision to kill a project which is entirely driven by the need to lower taxes by a fraction of a percent, in a situation where basic research is already suffering mightily.

    - the main concern I have is that I believe the cancelation of the project has very little to do with the above considerations, and much to do with Italian politics - pretty much like what happened to SSC.
    I am not sure this is a correct assessment.  In America, Democrats do not hesitate to spend any amount of money and both Congress and the President were Democrats.  SSC was at $5 billion in early 1990s money and they still had no idea how to build it when it was cancelled. Ronald Reagan was such a big proponent of basic research that when he heard the idea in 1988, he advocated it, without realizing it would be difficult to build that machine even today.  Heck, it might still be under construction still today.

    The failures of the SSC planning were so obvious they could not be ignored.  I don't know the politics of Super-B but it can't be just simple partisanship.  If someone else is doing it, it is redundant. 
    Hi Hank,

    I must say first of all that I am not an expert on the matter of the SSC cancelation.
    However, I think that your claims that the SSC is such a difficult machine to build
    are an overstatement.

    In any case redundancy is important in particle physics. Probably there is already enough in B physics for the next decade, but the decision has to do with money, not partisanship or physics assessments.

    I remember that SuperB got founding only from Italian governament. No other country commited for the project. The cost was not sustainable without other contributors and a downgrade of the experiment was the only option to make it real.
    I guess that this is still the main reason we see this news today...


    Hi all...
    from the inside. A SuperB project would not be of interest only for the particle physics community, but there are many people that may gain from it. First of all biologists that may use the synchrotron light for their studies.
    Anyway, it is wrong to think about LHCb and compare it to an electron positron machine, because they are somehow complementary, think about e+e- running at the \ a measurement of B to nu nu (just as an example) performed at LHCb and I will change my mind. Now, of course one could compare SuperB and Belle II, very similar experiments, and may wonder why we need two of them. Good point, but what about CMS and ATLAS, or CDF and D0?
    SuperB would have had also something more than B physics, because of a run at charm threshold so far beyond today's known tau-charm factories.
    But the problem is not about the physics, there is a huge list of things that can't be done in other working/planned machines, check the physics papers, it may be useful!
    Even the fact that the Belle II experiment will start earlier does not affect the physics case of SuperB, because the luminosity plans are different.
    As Italian, one should rather wonder why this is happening. We are now facing the risk of having our health system not anymore public (I know other countries do not have it public, but still, I know terrorists but I am not).
    Here the problem is that we are making a cut on science. We spend about 24 Billions euro in military expenses and about 8 for science. And when I write science I refer to everything. But apparently it's much easier to cut on science rather then cut on military expenses, is it for you?

    Tommaso, you love gossip more than news.
    You should published also the official statements of INFN

    Source: INFN
    Content: Press Release
    Date Issued: 28 November 2012

    INFN Revises Its Flagship Project

    The results of the international committee appointed by the the MIUR
    (Ministry of University and Research) for the costing review of the SuperB
    flagship project were examined yesterday by the Minister of Research,
    Francesco Profumo. The Minister had discussed those results with the
    management of the INFN and later with that of Cabibbolab.

    Although the importance and quality of the proposed research program have
    been greatly appreciated, the minister pointed out that the economic
    conditions of the Country and the limits foreseen by the National Plan for
    Research, are incompatible with the estimated cost of the project.

    The Minister, showing great helpfulness, has made it possible for INFN to
    propose other projects, always under the category of "flagship projects",
    as long as they are compatible with the initially planned budget.

    Proposals should be evaluated within a few months and INFN is therefore
    examining the possible ideas. Among the possibilities, however, will be
    strongly considered the hypothesis of presenting the project of
    establishing an international laboratory aimed at building an accelerating
    machine in the Frascati area.

    Annika, thanks for sharing the report, nice translation :)
    However, there is something missing, namely the 750 millions needed to fulfil the 1000 required...

    Hi Tomasso,

    It is a sad news that SuperB will not happened (Belle II needed to have a competitor).
    However, I can not say that it is unexpected decision.
    The schedule of the SuperB construction was very tight or even unrealistic.
    And even with this schedule it would start data taking in 2018-2019,
    while Belle II will start in 2015-2016.
    It is still acceptable to run twin brothers experiments, like it was with Belle & BaBar,
    when they both start within say one-two years difference, but 3-4 is too much.
    Nobody would be interested in the confirmations of the results with a few years delay.

    The experiment budget is not only the money for the detector/accelerator construction.
    It is also funding of the working groups who gets the results.
    If these results are not competitive anymore
    it would become extremely complicated to get funding for such researches.
    I am not even talking about the lack of motivation for the researchers to work on that.

    Unfortunately, the Italian project was late for few years
    and in such situation maybe this decision is about right.

    Very strange that hundreds of qualified researchers around the globe do not share this opinion..

    Take into account all the spinoffs (bio and materia sciences) and the unique features of SuperB:
    polarized beam and higher luminosity than KEK....

    The cancellation has nothing to do with such considerations.
    It is more about italian politics...hard to understand if you are not Italian or did not live there for long time..

    Very strange that hundreds of qualified researchers around the globe do not share this opinion.
    Has there ever been an instance where researchers have argued an experiment is a waste of money?  
    take into account all the spinoffs (bio and materia sciences) and the unique features of SuperB
    Every science project makes this claim.  It is an investment that will pay back 1.X or more on its cost, etc.  With that logic, we should take all government money and invest it in science, and then every government would run a budget surplus with the profits from every group claiming to be such a good investment.  But it really does not work that way.  :)
    > Has there ever been an instance where researchers have argued an experiment is a waste of money?

    Yes, a lot of them, seen with my eyes. International commetees and that stuff exist for this.

    > Every science project makes this claim

    A claim, when supported by scientific evidence, theoretical and experimental results is reality.
    Here the problem is that particle physics has high costs and sometimes is very penalizing.
    Thinking that few bloody american F-35 jet fighters cost like SuperB makes this saving ridicolous for
    the italian goverment...Italy is a republic that in his constitution reject war and his defence budget is way higher than research....And research is clearly a way to the future of a country...
    OK: they will not build SuperB, but this is a drop in the sea of shit that Italy is filling for her future...

    In America, we are building a single Navy destroyer for $6 billion. I certainly do not agree with that but the solution is not to double the wasteful spending by building projects the world doesn't need and the downside to all of the LHC attention is that politicians are going to ask what these things do. The 'we want to learn about the mysteries of the universe, but in our own country' argument will only go so far.

    We wasted $44 billion on solar power company subsidies but denied $1 billion for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment and researchers said it was absolutely crazy - but they left out that the T2K in Japan is running a similar experiment.  Super-B is not distinct enough either.

    If I were advising Italian scientists, I would use basic psychology.  Throw up ideas for 3 or 4 experiments no one really wants but get a committee to say are vital.  They will all get turned down and then you propose the important one and scream a lot.  Italian politicians will recognize they have said 'no' many times and then approve it without really looking at what it does or the cost.
    The cancellation has to do with the fact the project has been unable to attract foreign countries funds. Period. And INFN (and Italy as a country) should reflect on this fact. Had the project a compelling physics case? I'm not an expert of CP and the answer is probably yes... But...was the project and its timeline realistic? Was Italy credible and realistic to handle such a project (other countries as Germany - and it is Germany - decided to downsize DESY and keep GSI as main focussed investment). Is still ok for INFN to think to have 4 national laboratories + say a new lab as SuperB would start from scratch in few years?

    Having said all that, I completely agree with Tommaso that ask scientists to present in a rushed way another project (250 MEU size) is bad practice and bad potential use of public money. If a very good idea comes and it costs just 120 MEU what the hell we should do? Add another not so good idea for other 130 MEU???

    > With this move the Italian government shows again how little they
    > care for basic research in Italy, [...]

    Surely this ignores the harsh reality of the Italian national debt? (Around 120% of GDP last time I checked.)

    Such decisions are not connected to the % of the debt over the GDP.
    BTW, Japan has 200% debt/GDP and they are buiilding HyperKamiokande, a lot of precision experiments
    and an aggressive nuclear physics program. And they want to have even ILC on their (under)ground!
    Investment on research is more than looking at rough macroeconomic numbers.

    I hope Japan does build the ILC.  I am not nationalistic, it does not have to be on American soil and science is truly international now so let them spend the money and we can pay to use it.
    Tomasso, just out of curiosity, what is the hottest topic among Italian HEP community?

    In the US (from what I can see) it seems the hotest topic in HEP community is anything connected to dark matter and on the excesses seen in direct and indirect detection experiments. (this is just from a census of looking at HEP seminars in many institutes). don't think anyone(or very few) cares about B physics.

    It really depends on how exciting B physics is perceived compared to dark matter or neutrino research (or Higgs).

    Dark matter is hot in Italy too, but I am not sure I can answer this meaningfully, I do not have a very good perception of the global feelings of the italian HEP community. For sure the Higgs was and is a very hot topic, as is neutrino physics and indirect dark matter searches. But it is not what is hot that drives the projects. There are other factors - spinoffs, internal expertise (eg. in accelerator physics for the case of SuperB), etcetera. THey play a role when deciding what experiments to propose.

    And number of researchers involved... you cannot spend per capita 10x more than other communities

    i am also concerned with the same question of shantanu for two reasons. on the one hand, i am not sure that the scientific aims of italy in high energy physics have been so clearly and thoroughly examined. on the other hand italy has the gran sasso laboratory, the largest in the world, leader in some of the research issues mentioned.

    now, to connect with the interesting statement of tommaso, it sounds a bit preposterous to me to propose a tau-charm factory now, when bepc-ii is on since 4 years, and the head of chinese academy of science, yifang wang, is claiming for increased efforts on this enterprise, if one wants to do tau-charm physics do this type of science, one chould join to chinese efforts, rather than building an accelerator from scratch.

    note that i try to examine the scientific side of the question and i intentionally neglected the main practical question "what should we do with the expertise accumulated in frascati?" this question has a lot of importance, but in my view, it should not spoil the scientific discussion; but it would not be the first time that this type of interference takes place

    hello Burinman,
    maybe you are not aware about the luminosity differences about BESIII and a potential SuperD...well, with the plan of SuperB with a dedicated run at Psi3770 you would collect the full 4 years program of BESIII in 3 days...Not considering that their drift chamber is not working properly and they do not have a vertex detector..

    Yes, but how many years from now? 7? 10?...

    sorry...maybe 5 days..

    thanks a lot nonamehere, what you say is most useful, then may i ask to comment 1) what is the physics we should be after by gaining a factor 300 more events? 2) how much time it takes to build it? 3) can bes ii be improved in the meantime (bes iii or even iv)? cheers!