Take away your billion dollars

Arthur Roberts, 1946

Upon the lawns of Washington the physicists assemble,
From all the land are men at hand, their wisdom to exchange.
A great man stands to speak, and with applause the rafters tremble.
'My friends,' says he, 'You all can see that physics now must change. Now in my lab we had our plans, but these we'll now expand,
Research right now is useless, we have come to understand.
We now propose constructing at an ancient Army base,
The best electronuclear machine at any pace. --Oh

'It will cost a billion dollars, then billion volts 'twill give,
It will take five thousand scholars sever years to make it live.
All the generals approve it, all the money's now in hand,
And to help advance our program, teaching students now we've banned.
We have chartered transportation, we'll provide a weekly dance,
Our motto's integration, there is nothing left to chance.
This machine is just a model for a bigger one, of course,
That's the future road for physics, as I hope you'll all endorse.'

And as the halls with cheers resound and praises fill the air,
One single man remains aloof and silent in his chair.
And when the room is quiet and the crowd has ceased to cheer,
He rises up and thunders forth an answer loud and clear:
'It seems that I'm a failure, just a piddling dilettante,
Within six months a mere ten thousand bucks is all I've spent,
With love and string and sealing wax was physics kept alive,
Let not the wealth of Midas hide the goal for which we strive. --Oh

'Take away your billion dollars, take away your tainted gold,
You can keep your damn ten billion volts, my soul will not be sold.
Take away your army generals; their kiss is death, I'm sure.
Everything I build is mine, and every volt I make is pure.
Take away your integration; let us learn and let us teach,
Oh, beware this epidemic Berkeleyitis, I beseech.
Oh, dammit! Engineering isn't physics, is that plain?
Take, oh take, your billion dollars, let's be physicists again.'

1956, ten years later: a sequel

Within the halls of NSF the panelists assemble.
From all the land the experts band their wisdom to exchange.
A great man stands to speak and with applause the rafters tremble.
'My friends,' says he, 'we all can see that budgets now must change.
By toil and sweat the Soviets have reached ten billion volts.
Shall we downtrodden physicists submit? No, no -- revolt!
It never shall be said that we let others lead the way.
We'll band together all out finest brains and save the day.

'Give us back our billion dollars, better add ten billion more.
If your budget looks unbalanced, just remember this is war.
Never mind the Army's shrieking, never mind the Navy's pain,
Never mind the Air Force projects disappearing down the drain.
In coordinates barycentric, every BeV means lots of cash,
There will be no cheap solutions, -- neither straight nor synoclash.
If we outbuild the Russians, it will be because we spend.
Give, oh give those billion dollars, let them flow without an end.