I first came across the word synchrotron in connection with the Crab Nebula, as well explained here at Hyperphysics. However, the phenomenon is these days very much down-to-earth: last weekend I returned from our last ever session at the Daresbury Synchrotron, which is soon to be shut down (final public use Saturday 1st August 2008). It first came on-line for experiments in 1981: prior to that, intense X-ray and hard UV synchrotron radiation was obtained as a by-product through “parasitic” operation on particle storage rings. Among others, Reading’s own Keith Codling had shown that much more useful science was being obtained from the synchrotron radiation than from the particle experiments. As a result of their concerted effort, the first Second-Generation light source was built at Daresbury. Before that, Daresbury’s chief claim to fame was as the birthplace of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. But he was also an eminent mathematician. However, he was too much of a perfectionist, and so did not release for publication his two most important works. One was his voting system, which allowed the voter, in addition to simple order of preference, to nominate his (no votes for women in those days!) own choice of “nasty” party. The party most people hate then gets kicked out, rather than winning because the opposition is divided. The other work was from a mathematical point of view his greatest: this was a treatise on logic which would have stood as an intermediate between those of Boole and Russell. When I first went there 1989, conditions for visiting scientists were still very primitive. Seating areas, refreshments, etc, were rudimentary (and that’s being polite). Recently, though, it had become a nice place to work: very necessary, because a group will be working round the clock to get the most out of the precious beam time. Moreover, the software and hardware for data acquisition had been steadily improving. But in recent years the place was suffering attrition. It was in 2005 that we last used our favourite workstation 16.2. This was for large-scale structures, which means small scattering angles for the X-rays and so a long camera length is needed. We are polymer scientists, and so we look at things up to a hundred times larger than does your typical X-ray crystallographer. The beam is very intense so that if, for example, we are slowly stretching a rubber band, we can take a “snapshot” of the weakly scattered X-rays every 10 seconds. But the next year the workstation was sold off to the new SESAME facility in Jordan. So since then we have been using the 2.1 workstation, not ideal but still usable. However, the support staff have been slowly finding other jobs or retiring, and the last month or so the place has been feeling as bleak as the outer solar system. Now, though, it has been superseded by DIAMOND, a much more powerful source near Oxford. As one drives past, the housing of the ring looks like a sports stadium for Cybermen. Jobs were offered to the Daresbury staff, but uprooting and moving to an area of considerably greater house prices was not an option for many. Now there are many more things one can do at Diamond, but this means that the demand is much heavier. Grants for less demanding work like we have been doing for years will be hard to get, so that means going over to the Continent. However, we Europeans are lucky. I hear that things are dire in USA: I am reliably informed that Fermilab requested a budget increase of $30 million and got a decrease of $20 million instead. Perhaps folks at large simply do not understand what a Synchrotron is. I tell people that it’s a racetrack for electrons, and the X-ray beams are the tire squeal of the electrons turning sharp corners. And the fate of the Daresbury Ring? Is Frodo Demolition Company ready to move in, break it up, and cart it off to the Cracks of Doom? Apparently it is going to sit there idle for at least two years before “they” decide what to do with it. (For further reading see HISTORY of SYNCHROTRON RADIATION from Berkeley Lab.)