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The LHC consists of a $10B USD, 17-mile long particle accelerator track, located beneath the Swiss-French border.  (Source: Mark Dowe's Journal)

The LHC fired its first beams last week and will begin its first collisions this week.  (Source: CERN)
Its been a long road building and tweaking the world's largest particle accelerator

When it comes to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), it was a Herculean enough task simply to build the $10B USD device -- a 17-mile-long circular tunnel between the Franco-Swiss border lined with some of the world's most sophisticated electronics.  However, that proved only to be the first of many challenges in building and bringing online the world's largest particle accelerator.

In September 2008, scientists fired its first beams, however, the celebrations were soon replaced by disappointment when an electric fault caused serious damage to one of the sectors of the circular track.  The accelerator's work was set back and repairs began.  The repairs were further delayed by the onset of winter.

Now, the repairs are complete, and last week scientists fired the accelerator up cautiously for a second time.  The accomplishment was the latest in a series of baby steps that occurred over the last two months.  On October 8, the accelerator completed its chilling cycle, using its vacuum chamber to reach 1.9 degrees Kelvin or about -271 degrees Celsius.

Next, particles were injected on October 23.  Then on November 7, beams were steered through three octants of the machine.  Finally, on November 18, beams were fully circulated around the LHC, an important milestone.

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer states, "It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again.  We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.  It’s been a herculean effort to get to where we are today.  I’d like to thank all those who have taken part, from CERN and from our partner institutions around the world."

This week another integral step will be carried out -- completing collisions to provide calibration data.  This landmark step will mark the accelerator's first collisions.  It will be followed by a slow ramp-up to full-strength collisions, at an energy of 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam).

The full-strength collisions are feared by some in the public who worry that they may produce out of control mini-blackholes or strangelets, theoretical particles.  Theoretical physicists insist that after extensive review they have found the risk of such dangers to be virtually nonexistent, and the collisions to be safe. 

Despite these reassurances, the LHC has provoked a diverse response, including in literature and the media.  It is centrally featured in the novel FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, and in the television series based on the work.  It is also a major plot device in the Dan Brown book Angels & Demons, in which the Vatican's enemies try to use antimatter created by the accelerator as a weapon of mass destruction.

CERN is set to hold a press conference on Monday afternoon which should hold more juicy details about the accelerator's restart.  The LHC's primary mission is to find the Higgs boson, a theorized, but never observed particle.  Many other secrets of our universe's physical properties should be unraveled along the way.



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RE: ....
By IcePickFreak on 11/23/2009 12:48:01 PM , Rating: 2
It would probably be a good idea not to read an article with the units acronym (LHC) in the title then.

I don't care to hear about celebrity gossip so guess what, I don't read magazines titled "Star" or that have "Celebrity" in the name, nor watch "E! Entertainment TV". Simple, no?

At any rate, I'd go on another rant about the apparent lack of basic engineering understanding around DT, but "I'm tired". Who knew you couldn't build a particle accelerator 17 miles in circumference and not have it work flawlessly the first time you fired it up, what a bunch of overpaid amateurs!


RE: ....
By RandallMoore on 11/23/2009 1:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
or you can come to the conclusion that the LHC is never going to work...


RE: ....
By IcePickFreak on 11/23/2009 2:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's possible that it won't, but I don't see much innovation in anything coming about with that mindset. Do you have some rationale as to why you think it won't? Or are you just not happy with the lack of instant gratification because it did not work right away so you are writing it off? Drawing that conclusion simply because it didn't work right away isn't what I'd call a rational expectation. If you sense some fundamental flaw in the design and/or theory of the LHC please do let us know.

When the first guy jumped off a rock with wings strapped to his arms and landed on his face, should the whole idea of winged flight have been tossed aside? Perseverance is what drives innovation.


RE: ....
By Reclaimer77 on 11/23/2009 4:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When the first guy jumped off a rock with wings strapped to his arms and landed on his face, should the whole idea of winged flight have been tossed aside?


Well I don't see a whole lot of people these days flying around on wings strapped to their arms...


RE: ....
By IcePickFreak on 11/23/2009 5:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well I don't see a whole lot of people these days flying around on wings strapped to their arms...


Thank you for backing up my claim that there is a lack of basic engineering understanding on DT.

There's not a whole lot of people these days on peddle-powered, cloth-winged air craft either. Heck they even had the control principles all wrong with wing warping, not to mention a passenger got killed when one of them crashed a plane in 1908. I guess the Wright brothers failed as well and should have just given up, it's not like anything ever came of their failures.

You might want to read the sentence immediately after the one you quoted from me again.
quote:
When the first guy jumped off a rock with wings strapped to his arms and landed on his face, should the whole idea of winged flight have been tossed aside? Perseverance is what drives innovation.


RE: ....
By nineball9 on 11/23/2009 6:39:24 PM , Rating: 2
The LEP CERN ripped out to install the LHC worked very well. The 5 other accelerators currently operational at CERN are working fine. The many particle accelerators CERN has built and successfully operated since the 1950's have all worked.
Knowing all this, it is illogical to "come to the conclusion that the LHC is never going to work".


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