Tag: Large Hadron Collider

Rumors of the LHC's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

By Andrew Moseman | March 10, 2010 10:03 am

lhcwide425It sounded again today like the Large Hadron Collider—previously the victim of technical failure, hackers, and avian sabateurs—was cursed. The BBC reported that the world’s largest particle collider would have to shut down at the end of 2011, possibly for an entire year, to address its mechanical problems, according to LHC director Steven Myers. The report states that the faults will delay the machine reaching its full potential for two years [BBC News].

Just one problem, though: While the information came out as another “LHC is broken” news break, Myers actually put forth the intended schedule more than a month ago. The LHC team announced that it would actually extend the physics run through until December 2011, before shutting the accelerator down for a year. The only real delay here has been to the reporting of the story [The Times]. Brian Cox, one of the project scientists, spent the morning tweeting up a storm in protest to the news handling of what he says is just a scheduled shutdown. (A typical tweet reads: “For the very last time – the #lhc story is a pile of merde, as we say at CERN. Scheduled maintenance stops are not bloody news!”)

The LHC will keep running until late next year at 7 trillion electron volts (TeV), as planned. The engineers will go in after that to carry out the planned maintenance on systems in the tunnel that have proven problematic so far; their improvements should allow the LHC to approach what was the goal from the start, doing physics at 14 TeV. In any case, the machine’s upcoming resting time isn’t an emergency shutdown. Particle accelerators are regularly shut down for re-engineering. They are huge, complex instruments, and it’s just impossible to run them full-time like a domestic boiler [The Times].

Related Content:
80beats: LHC Beam Zooms Past 1 Trillion Electron Volts, Sets World Record
80beats: Baguettes and Sabateurs from the Future Defeated: LHC Smashes Particles
DISCOVER: A Tumultuous Year at the LHC
Discoblog: LHC Shut Down By Wayward Baguette, Dropped By Bird Saboteur

Image: Claudia Marcelloni / CERN


Physicists Find Hints of Dark Matter But No Clear Discovery

By Andrew Moseman | December 18, 2009 10:34 am

CDMS425If you were following Cosmic Variance yesterday, you saw its live blogging of one of the most anticipated recent announcements in physics: the team from Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) telling the world whether a Minnesota detector spotted evidence of dark matter. The answer? Maybe (pdf).

CDMS scientists use super-cooled detectors made of germanium and silicon to search for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), one of the leading suspects for what could make up dark matter. The detector is deep underground in the Soudan mine in Minnesota, which scientists also use to hunt for neutrinos. WIMPs streaming in from space would very rarely jostle the germanium nuclei, some 800 meters underground in the Soudan mine, generating a tiny amount of heat and slightly altering the charge on the detectors in a characteristic pattern [Science News].

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LHC Beam Zooms Past 1 Trillion Electron Volts, Sets World Record

By Andrew Moseman | November 30, 2009 9:57 am

lhcwide425Long hyped as the largest science experiment ever built, the Large Hadron Collider now has a world record for doing something: accelerating particles with more energy than any accelerator ever has.

On Sunday evening, at 6:44 p.m. eastern time in the United States, engineers at the Switzerland-based accelerator increased the energy of this “pilot beam”, reaching 1.18 trillion electron volts…. The previous record of 0.98 trillion electron volts has been held by the Tevatron accelerator since 2001 [BBC News].

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Baguettes and Saboteurs From the Future Defeated: LHC Smashes Particles

By Brett Israel | November 25, 2009 11:40 am

Neither baguette-dropping birds nor future sabatoge schemes could stop the LHC this week. And no, the world was not sucked into a black hole, as you may have noticed. Shortly after flinging the first proton beams around the collider, the first particle collisons were recorded. After 14 months of repairs, Cern engineers have got the Large Hadron Collider to smash particles together far sooner than anyone dared hope. For the time being the collisions are low energy, around 450 billion electronvolts per beam, which is around half the energy of what remains, for now, the world’s most powerful particle collider: the Tevatron at Fermilab on the outskirts of Chicago [Guardian]. The LHC’s Atlas detector snapped an image of two counter-rotating proton beams that collided head-on.

Scientists are hopeful that this first collison will lead to smoother operations in the future, but they are being cautious considering the LHC’s laundry list of past failures. The European collider is intended to eventually collide proton beams at an energy of seven trillion electron volts. The first experiments in the LHC are scheduled to take place in early 2010, when researchers will smash subatomic particles into each other at high speeds in order to break them down and allow the discovery of smaller, more fundamental particles [CBC News]. CERN has an image gallery of the LHC’s first run here.

Related Content:
Cosmic Variance: First Collisions in the LHC!
Cosmic Variance: Collisions!
80beats: LHC Flings Protons Once Again; Scientists Celebrate With Caution
DISCOVER: A Tumultuous Year at the LHC
Discoblog: LHC Shut Down by Wayward Baguette Dropped by Bird Saboteur
Discoblog: While LHC Scientists Were Drinking Champagne, Hackers Were Attacking

Image: CERN


LHC Flings Protons Once Again; Scientists Celebrate With Caution

By Andrew Moseman | November 23, 2009 10:15 am

LHCHackers. Leaking liquid helium caused by a faulty connection. International ridicule. And to top it all off, aerial attack by a wayward baguette. Yes, it’s safe to say that things haven’t gone according to plan at the Large Hadron Collider in the last 14 months, but the world’s largest particle smasher is finally—finally!—back online after its Friday restart, with proton beams circulating through this huge underground ring.

The first time protons circled the collider, on Sept. 10, 2008, the event was celebrated with Champagne and midnight pajama parties around the world. But the festivities were cut short a few days later when an electrical connection between a pair of the collider’s giant superconducting electromagnets vaporized [The New York Times].

The initial enthusiasm, it seems, was rather premature—scientists analysis of the failed connection revealed many more that probably couldn’t handle the strain of the energy needed to re-create conditions similar to the Big Bang. During 14 months of repairs dozens of giant superconducting magnets that accelerate particles at the speed of light had to be replaced [BBC News].

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Physicists Get Another Clue in the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Particle

By Eliza Strickland | March 16, 2009 9:17 am

FermilabParticle physicists have ruled out one of the possible remaining hiding places of the Higgs boson, bringing them one step closer to finding the slippery subatomic particle–or, conceivably, to ruling out its existence.

Physicists believe that the Higgs particle interacts with some other particles, like the W and Z bosons, to give them mass. The standard quip about the Higgs is that it is the “God Particle” — it is everywhere but remains frustratingly elusive. Confirming the Higgs would fill a huge gap in the so-called Standard Model, the theory that summarizes our present knowledge of particles [AFP].

The new results, from the Tevatron particle accelerator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, narrow down the range of masses where the Higgs boson may be found. Physicist Craig Blocker explains that particle accelerators smash particles together and then sift through the debris produced, looking for particles with certain masses. Previous collider experiments had placed a lower bound of 114 giga-electron volts (GeV), a measure that can be used for particle mass, on the Higgs, and theoretical calculations require it to be less than 185 GeV. The new Fermilab results, from its Tevatron collider, rule out a Higgs mass between 160 and 170 GeV…. “If the Higgs had a mass in this fairly narrow range” of 160 to 170 GeV, he says, “we should have seen it, we had a good chance to see it” [Scientific American].

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Until Next Fall, LHC Smashes Only Hopes, Not Particles

By Eliza Strickland | February 10, 2009 1:48 pm

LHC weldingAfter all the excitement and anticipation surrounding the Large Hadron Collider‘s launch last September, its first few months have been an anticlimactic cascade of disappointments. When a fault shut down the subatomic particle collider just nine days after the first beam of protons whizzed around its 17-mile track, officials at first said it would take several weeks to repair. Then they revised that estimate, saying it wouldn’t be fixed until spring of 2009–and then that changed to summer of 2009. Now, officials say that repairs won’t be finished before September, at the earliest.

To appease impatient high-energy physicists, the laboratory will probably run the machine (albeit at reduced powers) for a ten-month stretch from November until the autumn of 2010 [Nature News]. Officials at CERN, the European agency that runs the collider, hadn’t planned to run it through the winters when electricity costs are higher; they estimate that this appeasement will cost them an extra $10.5 million for electricity.

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Confirmed: Scientists Understand Where Mass Comes From

By Eliza Strickland | November 21, 2008 10:54 am

quarks gluonsThe standard model of physics got it right when it predicted where the mass of ordinary matter comes from, according to a massive new computational effort. Particle physics explains that the bulk of atoms is made up of protons and neutrons, which are themselves composed of smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are bound by gluons. The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of quarks [accounts for] only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95 percent? [AFP]

The answer, according to theory, is that the energy from the interactions between quarks and gluons accounts for the excess mass (because as Einstein‘s famous E=mc² equation proved, energy and mass are equivalent). Gluons are the carriers of the strong nuclear force that binds three quarks together to form one proton or neutron; these gluons are constantly popping into existence and disappearing again. The energy of these vacuum fluctuations has to be included in the total mass of the proton and neutron [New Scientist]. The new study finally crunched the numbers on how much energy is created in these fluctuations and confirmed the theory, but it took a supercomputer over a year to do so.

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LHC's Repairs Will Cost More and Take Even Longer Than Hoped

By Eliza Strickland | November 17, 2008 5:11 pm

LHC repairFixing the glitches that shut down the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in September will apparently be no easy task: A spokesman for the particle physics lab CERN has announced that the repairs will cost $21 million and will probably not be completed until late June. Cern spokesman James Gillies said: “If we can do it sooner, all well and good. But I think we can do it realistically (in) early summer” [BBC News].

The startup of the LHC on September 10th may win an award for anticlimax of the year: Physicists talked for months about the mysteries of physics that the particle collider would reveal, while nervous laypeople worried that when engineers flipped the switch on the machine it would create a miniature black hole that could destroy the earth. But instead of either of these scenarios coming true, the LHC broke within two weeks before getting a chance to perform any experiments.

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Ghost in the Machine? Physicists May Have Detected a New Particle at Fermilab

By Eliza Strickland | November 5, 2008 4:00 pm

TevatronStrange things are afoot at the Tevatron particle collider at Fermilab, and the aging U.S. particle smasher is getting an unexpected moment in the spotlight while physicists wait for the repairs of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Researchers say experiments at the Tevatron have produced particles that they are unable to explain using the standard model of physics, and say it’s possible that they’ve detected a previously unknown particle. If the result does turn out to be due to some unexpected new process, it would be the most significant discovery in particle physics for decades [Physics World].

Bloggers and theorists are already lining up explanations that involve unseen particles, hypothetical strings, or modifications of conventional physics. The finding is so controversial that about one-third of the 600-person experiment that detected it are refusing to put their names on the 69-page paper purporting its discovery [Nature News], which was posted in advance of publication on the server arXiv.

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