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‘Big Bang Machine’ glitch was electrical fault

The technical problem that forced the shut-down of a huge particle collider built to probe the origins of the universe was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator's magnets, CERN said on Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

The technical problem that forced the shut-down of a huge particle collider built to probe the origins of the universe was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator's magnets, CERN said on Thursday.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, which translates to the French acronym CERN, was forced to shut down the biggest scientific experiment ever conducted last month only 10 days after starting up its Large Hadron Collider, due to a helium leak in its tunnel.

"This incident was unforeseen," CERN Director-General Robert Aymar said in a statement. "But I am now confident that we can make the necessary repairs, ensure that a similar incident can not happen in the future and move forward to achieving our research objectives."

CERN has already said that the collider, built in a tunnel 330 feet (100 meters) below the ground and straddling the Franco-Swiss border on the outskirts of Geneva, will not restart until next spring.

That is because it had to be warmed up from its operating temperature of minus 456.3 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 271.3 degrees Celsius) for the fault to be investigated and any repairs carried out.

By the time it could be cooled down again, CERN would have run into its annual winter maintenance.

CERN confirmed that it had the spare components in hand to ensure that the LHC can restart next year, and confirmed that the incident had not put anyone at risk.

When the collider was started on Sept. 10, CERN had to dismiss suggestions the experiment would create tiny black holes of intense gravity that could swallow up the entire planet.

The experiment aims to re-create conditions immediately after the big bang which cosmologists believe was the origin of our expanding universe.

It will do this by sending beams of subatomic particles around the 17-mile (27-kilometer) subterranean tunnel to smash into each other at close to the speed of light.

These collisions will explode in a burst of energy and of new and previously unseen particles, whose existence, in some cases, has been predicted by particle physicists.