The LHC particle accelerator was the source of much excitement in the scientific community as well as much fear among uniformed skeptics who believed it would create black holes when brought online. When the LHC, CERN's baby, was turned online it did a lot -- but nothing bad -- breezing through early tests.
However, it quickly went from doing a lot to doing nothing at all, when a transformer broke during the final stage of testing, blowing a great deal of expensive circuitry in the process.
With winter fast approaching, repairs are pretty much done for the year and much work remains to be done. Perhaps fears of black holes should be replaced with fears of sticker shock in skeptics’ minds. The repairs sport one expensive bill -- $21M USD.
Offline since September 19, the repairs will take at least until the early summer say CERN officials. They say June is likely the earliest restart date, later than previously speculated. Spokesman James Gillies delivered the bad news about the high price tag and slow nature of the painstaking repairs. He stated, "If we can do it sooner, all well and good. But I think we can do it realistically (in) early summer."
What brought down LHC? One bad solder was the source of the electrical malfunction, according to Mr. Gillies.
The collider operates at temperatures colder than the depths of space, so a long, gradual warming process was required for repairs. After months the collider has finally been warmed to the point where it can be fully inspected. Says Mr. Gillies, "Now the sector is warm so they are able to go in and physically look at each of the interconnections."
CERN should be able to finance the repair with its existing budget, he says.
The massive particle accelerator on the Swiss-French border is worth the wait and trouble, say scientists. They remind that particle accelerators typically have these kinds of problems when first deployed. They also say that the LHC is more troublesome than normal as it is cooled more highly than other designs. However, this cooling is critical to gaining the first ever glimpse at a possible undiscovered world of previously unobserved exotic particles and phenomena.