The tevatron collider smashed protons and anti-protons together in an underground ring. But more than 20 years ago, the US government decided it didn't want to fund the next generation accelerator. Even after Texas dug the hole for it. (That baton has passed to CERN, and the Large Hadron Collider which went on-line in 2009.
You can't succeed in science if you can't do experiments. So, everyone is heading to Europe.
At least 50 Fermilab scientists have moved to the LHC, and nearly 30 of the estimated 80 universities conducting research in this country — many at Fermi — also have switched. In June, Oddone asked for 100 employees to volunteer for severance packages.In this age when there is much debate over what government should and should not do, I will say that basic research of this kind should be funded. Any commercial applications of this knowledge is decades away. At least. (Consider that early work in quarks, from 20 years ago, may finally be moving into the arena of computer engineering in the next few years.) No business can support that long of an investment without return.
But America no longer dreams of being number 1. In anything. No one studies engineering - because it is hard. No one studies math - because it is hard. Well, very few. Is it any wonder we don't build things anymore.