Print 38 comment(s) - last by mtnmanak.. on Dec 4 at 12:40 AM

The bad news keeps stacking up for the world's largest particle accelerator; will only be partially functional next year

The largest particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider was a bold multinational effort that cost billions of dollars and required some of the world's brightest minds.  However, this once glowing beacon of scientific progress became a massive mess not long after it went operational.

Coming online in September, the LHC blew a transformer that controlled its cooling in preliminary test firings.  Without the cooling, the LHC could not operate.  It was later found that a single bad solder was to blame for the failure, which not only blew out the transformer, but melted much of the attached circuitry.

Initially, the $21M USD repairs were expected to take a couple months at most.  This deadline was quickly pushed back in statements by CERN director Robert Aymar to April 2009 and then finally to the summer (June 2009).  Now the expected completion date for repairs has slid yet again. 

CERN spokesman James Gillies, surely beleaguered by having to bear all the bad news of late, broke the latest development on Friday.  He describes the new restart target date as "the late summer of 2009".

He described two plans for the LHC -- "Plan A" and "Plan B".  "Plan A" involves bringing the accelerator online in the late summer 2009, with lower power firings.  This plan would attempt to restore operation as early as possible, but at the cost of full functionality.  If you think "Plan A" sounds unattractive, try "Plan B"; "Plan B" would put the LHC out of commission until 2010 at the earliest.

"Plan B" would entail waiting until the LHC's pressure-relief system, the system of the accelerator that suffered from electrical failure, was totally replaced by an upgraded design.

For now, says Mr. Gillies, CERN will pursue "Plan A".  He states, "The priority is to get collision data from the experiment.  The LHC will run next year."

Under the current plan, only the three currently warmed segments of the eight total loop segments will be outfitted with the "fixed" pressure design.  Upgraded pressure-release valves will be installed in the cryostats on the dipole magnets for each of these three sections.  The remaining segments will not be warmed and will only receive the fix once they are warmed for other routine maintenance, sometime in the future.

The LHC design was supposed to produce an extremely powerful 7 tera electron-volts (TeV) beam, however it will be limited to 5 TeV or less, thanks to the problems.  Says Mr. Gillies, "The five undamaged sections can run at 5 TeV, and the rest of the machine can run at 4 TeV.  The highest we're hoping to run next year will be lower than 7 TeV."  

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Still a good record
By djc208 on 12/1/2008 10:47:21 AM , Rating: 4
I love how everyone seems to think this whole thing is a huge mess. One of the largest and most complex machines ever built is having problems, big surprise. The problem seems (to me) to be that no one planned for issues. Isn't stuff like this the reason they were running these tests? Sure you don't want to have them but it shouldn't be a surprise that they exist.

We release hardware and software every day that will spend the rest of it's life being patched and repaired. Why should anyone be surprised something many times more complex is any different?

RE: Still a good record
By karlostomy on 12/1/2008 10:55:47 AM , Rating: 2
yes. I conjecture that in years to come we will see this delay as a small cost of great discoveries.

Inevitably, those discoveries will take many more critiqued years before application, but those same applications will prove beneficial for generations of ignorant beneficiaries.

RE: Still a good record
By SpaceJumper on 12/1/2008 2:10:34 PM , Rating: 3
We will discover reality...that... we are just a bunch of data in a three dimensional memory chip. The memory chip is the dark matter as we know it.

RE: Still a good record
By ChronoReverse on 12/1/2008 6:08:09 PM , Rating: 4
I prefer this explanation:

RE: Still a good record
By Ryanman on 12/1/2008 11:02:04 AM , Rating: 2
It's the length of time. Everyone understands how complex it is, that things will go wrong. But 2 years? Humanity doesn't have the patience : )

RE: Still a good record
By chris2618 on 12/1/2008 11:17:48 AM , Rating: 2
I think the biggest problem they have with repairs is having to warm up the sectors and cool them down again.

secondly how did you get to two years. In plan b it will be the beginning 2010 so at most i think a bit longer than 1 year

RE: Still a good record
By Griswold on 12/1/2008 11:32:13 AM , Rating: 3
I highly doubt that those who are now moaning have the slightest idea of how complex LHC is, what it is used for and what the benefits will be. I, for one, do not care about these folks.

RE: Still a good record
By GeorgeH on 12/1/2008 3:31:13 PM , Rating: 3
And we're the poorer for it. Da Vinci spent over 10 years on the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo about 3 making a simple marble statue we call David; some things are worth waiting for.

I’m as impatient as anyone for results from the LHC; if it takes another year of waiting, though, it’ll still be more than worth it. And let’s not forget that analysis of the data produced will likely take years (if not decades) of debate to iron out anyway.

RE: Still a good record
By GeorgeH on 12/1/2008 3:32:46 PM , Rating: 2
(Poorer for the impatience.)

RE: Still a good record
By Griswold on 12/1/2008 11:33:32 AM , Rating: 3
There will always be numbnuts using silly words like "mess" when reporting about the largest experiment ever conducted by man. Forget them.

RE: Still a good record
By whiskerwill on 12/1/2008 11:38:50 AM , Rating: 4
Say what you want, but when one single bad weld shuts a multi-billion dollar project down for over a year, that's a MESS.

RE: Still a good record
By Clauzii on 12/1/2008 2:25:09 PM , Rating: 4
Reminds of a rubber O-ring that made a mess too. Simple things can make the greatest havoc.

RE: Still a good record
By IcePickFreak on 12/1/2008 5:35:34 PM , Rating: 2
But there's no sense crying over every mistake,
you just keep on trying till you run out of cake.

RE: Still a good record
By MVSuero on 12/1/2008 4:03:20 PM , Rating: 2
The Hubble Space Telescope was in a much worse situation when it first launched. It was completely useless due to the main lense being incorrectly manufactured. And oh yeah, it was in friggin OUTER SPACE! Yet one maintenance mission later and it gave us a bonanza of information that has completely changed our understanding of the universe. The LHC will do the same, just give it time.

delay because of missing scientist
By Dreifort on 12/1/2008 10:48:00 AM , Rating: 3
Gordon Freeman was accidently transported into an alternate dimension during preliminary testing on restarting the colider. When (and if) he returns, they will restart the LHC.

RE: delay because of missing scientist
By MrBlastman on 12/1/2008 11:02:22 AM , Rating: 2
Scientist: "I hope no one expects me to go start up the generator. Smithers went down there and never came back."

By Dreifort on 12/1/2008 12:27:57 PM , Rating: 2
Professor Farnsworth: "Oh, they say madness runs in our family. Some even call me mad. And why? Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters, atomic supermen with octagonal shaped bodies that suck blood..."

By PhoenixKnight on 12/1/2008 11:26:32 AM , Rating: 4
Lamar must have gotten into the system and screwed something up.

By elessar1 on 12/1/2008 1:17:41 PM , Rating: 2
He is still in Black Mesa...

Who copy who: Resident evil or Half Life???

By SpaceJumper on 12/1/2008 1:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
The scientist name is the elusive Higg Bosom.

By mtnmanak on 12/4/2008 12:40:44 AM , Rating: 2
Actually... the LHC has been running fine for the last 2 months. They just got tired of the protesters and made up a story about a bad solder.

December 12, 2012
By mattclary on 12/1/2008 12:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
I'm predicting it comes online December 12, 2012. ;)

RE: December 12, 2012
By Goty on 12/1/2008 1:09:29 PM , Rating: 3
The whole 2012 thing is a product of the Mayan number system, nothing more, and the explanation that that is that day that the Earth, sun, and center of the Milky Way will align is complete nonsense: that happens TWICE EVERY YEAR.

RE: December 12, 2012
By SpaceJumper on 12/1/2008 1:43:18 PM , Rating: 2
LHC will fire up before that date. We have less than four years.

Not surprised
By porkpie on 12/1/2008 10:43:02 AM , Rating: 2
It's built by government. Lots of different goverments in fact What else do you expect?

RE: Not surprised
By Ryanman on 12/1/2008 10:47:55 AM , Rating: 2
Well it's not just that. When they said there was going to be a small problem, you could instantly assume that it'd spiral out of control like it has. It was too good to be true - that we'd be able to rewrite our physics books so soon after it was finished. Something had to put it out of commission for a couple years.

things seem to be lining up...
By eyebeeemmpawn on 12/1/2008 11:02:43 AM , Rating: 2
Well, things certainly seem to be lining up for a 2012 apocalypse ;)

By BruceLeet on 12/1/2008 2:13:37 PM , Rating: 2
Like a noob with A.D.D I completely ignored other posts before posting mine :^)

When I read the projected timelines I thought of the same thing, except I was thinking "rapture" for some reason.

Plan C
By DarkElfa on 12/1/2008 11:43:56 AM , Rating: 1
Plan C, they find the person who made the bad connection on that board and slap him so hard his face would explode and his dog would die.

RE: Plan C
By SpaceJumper on 12/1/2008 1:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
They done that already. Plan D will be disassembly.

Full Power Problem
By SpaceJumper on 12/1/2008 11:33:15 AM , Rating: 2
I am predicting that the next problem would be the achieving of full power.

Earth fate
By BruceLeet on 12/1/2008 2:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
Destruction is on schedule, going with "Plan B" it wont be fully operation until 2010 at the earliest.

When 2012 rolls around (the projected end of the world) the LHC will be fully operational and it will indeed create a blackhole.

/end sarcasm, read again... sarcasm

On a serious note, it doesn't really matter how long it takes we're not going anywhere. 4 years isnt that long, if you dont pay any attention to the LHC until its 100% operational it would seem like an even shorter recovery time.

By GhandiInstinct on 12/1/2008 2:45:27 PM , Rating: 2
Someone sabatoged this entire experiment. All the people sending death threats, one of them must have made sure this thing was never going to reach full power. It'll be delayed till 2023.

Tinfoil hat time childrens!
By Smilin on 12/1/2008 4:59:18 PM , Rating: 2
"Ok Guys so over the past few months since the shutdown we've concluded that yes, we indeed did produce a blackhole. We've calculated where it will be located in the coming months and we'll be monitoring to see if it evaporates or if we'll all die. In the meantime we need a cover story to help us explain why we've got things shut down."

(before I get flamed...yes, j/k)

More Explanation
By toyotabedzrock on 12/1/2008 5:10:21 PM , Rating: 2
The info seem vague. What parts are going to be limited to 4 TEV? It sounds like the repaired sections will be limited to 4 which makes no sense if there being upgraded.

Also why did they warm 3 sections, before they where only gonna warm 1? Do they suspect other bad soldering joints. And maybe wanted to check a portion of the loop to see what the odds are that there is other bad joints?

Why didn't the power dumping systems function as designed to protect the power systems?

I'd be also interested to see pictures of the physical damage, just for curiosities sake. I also hope they get this sorted out soon.

Another question is why does it need the upgrade? Shouldn't they have calculated the helium release rate and expansion volume that would be needed in this failure scenario.

Been there done that?
By Icehearted on 12/2/2008 4:15:49 AM , Rating: 2
Umm, if I am not mistaken, has this world not already survived this 2012 phenomenon many times already? I liken this to someone saying that a 1000 years ago, someone started a cult where every year people count backward by 1, now it's been 1000 years, we're on the verge of zero! It'll be the end of us all!!!

I'm hardly informed enough to know what this LHC will do, so I'm not totally sold on the idea that the thing's even safe. Sure the experts all say it is, but then they used to say the same thing about nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. They were the experts, and the sheep bleated their agreement to silence the masses.

LHC Disaster
By SaneScienceOrg on 12/3/2008 12:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
Man's technology has exceeded his grasp. - 'The World is not Enough'
("I'm slightly irritated, because this non-story is symptomatic of a larger mistrust in science, particularly in the US, which includes things like intelligent design. Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat." Arrogant, deluded douchebag and CERN spokesmodel, Brian Cox.)
(September 19, 2008 - 'LHC loses liquid helium' - "The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has lost up to a tonne of liquid helium after some of its superconducting magnets inadvertently heated up this morning, has learnt. A log entry written by the current LHC co-ordinator at 11:27 am CET (10:27 am BST) states that there has been a "massive quench" in sector 3–4. Quenches occur when superfluid helium in the magnets rises above its operating temperature of 1.9 K, and can be caused, for example, when a proton beam veers off course.")
(September 24, 2008 - 'LHC on hold until spring of 2009' - "The magnet failure last week at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) means that the accelerator will not be up and running again until early spring of 2009, say officials at CERN. To keep the project on schedule, the team running the accelerator near Geneva have decided to skip a planned test run at an intermediate energy and re-start the LHC in 2009 at the full beam energy of 7 TeV.") And begin creating Black Holes.
Zealous, jealous, Nobel Prize hungry Physicists are racing each other and stopping at nothing to try to find the supposed 'Higgs Boson'(aka God) Particle, among others, and are risking nothing less than the annihilation of the Earth and all Life in endless experiments hoping to prove a theory when urgent tangible problems face the planet. The European Organization for Nuclear Research(CERN) new Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is the world's most powerful atom smasher that will soon be firing groups of billions of heavy subatomic particles at each other at nearly the speed of light to create Miniature Big Bangs producing Micro Black Holes, Strangelets, AntiMatter and other potentially cataclysmic phenomena as described below.
Particle physicists have run out of ideas and are at a dead end forcing them to take reckless chances with more and more powerful and costly machines to create new and never-seen-before, unstable and unknown matter while Astrophysicists, on the other hand, are advancing science and knowledge on a daily basis making new discoveries in these same areas by observing the universe, not experimenting with it and with your life. Einstein used Astronomy to prove his landmark general theory of relativity that, ironically, decribes, among other things, the Black Holes which the LHC is designed to produce at the hoped for rate of one per second.
The LHC is a dangerous gamble as CERN physicist Alvaro De Rújula in the BBC LHC documentary, 'The Six Billion Dollar Experiment', incredibly admits quote, "Will we find the Higgs particle at the LHC? That, of course, is the question. And the answer is, science is what we do when we don't know what we're doing." And CERN spokesmodel Brian Cox follows with this stunning quote, "the LHC is certainly, by far, the biggest jump into the unknown."
The CERN-LHC website Mainpage itself states: "There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions,..." Again, this is because they truly don't know what's going to happen. They are experimenting with forces they don't understand to obtain results they can't comprehend. If you think like most people do that 'They must know what they're doing' you could not be more wrong. Some people think similarly about medical Dr.s but consider this by way of comparison and example from JAMA: "A recent Institute of Medicine report quoted rates estimating that medical errors kill between 44,000 and 98,000 people a year in US hospitals." The second part of the CERN quote reads "...but what's for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator,..." A molecularly changed or Black Hole consumed Lifeless World? The end of the quote reads " knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe." These experiments to date have so far produced infinitely more questions than answers but there isn't a particle physicist alive who wouldn't gladly trade his life to glimpse the "God particle", and sacrifice the rest of us with him. Reason and common sense will tell you that the risks far outweigh any potential(as CERN physicists themselves say) benefits.
This quote from National Geographic, "The hunt for the God particle", exactly sums this "science" up: "If all goes right, matter will be transformed by the violent collisions into wads of energy, which will in turn condense back into various intriguing types of particles, some of them never seen before. That's the essence of experimental particle physics: "You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out." Read about the "other stuff" below;
Popular Mechanics - "World's Biggest Science Project Aims to Unlock 'God Particle'" -"

LHC woes
By FPP on 12/3/2008 6:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
All machines that work now had a time in the past when they did not.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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