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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.