A short circuit in one of the Large Hadron Collider's eight magnet sectors will delay the restart of the world's most powerful particle accelerator, Europe's CERN particle physics center announced Tuesday.
The LHC was due to start recirculating beams of protons this week, in preparation for the resumption of science operations after a two-year shutdown for upgrades. However, an intermittent short was identified in one of the machine's magnet circuits on March 21, and that will need to be investigated before the beam is turned on, CERN said. It said the investigation could take days or weeks — depending on whether the supercooled sector needs to be warmed up, repaired and then cooled back down.
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"Any cryogenic machine is a time amplifier, so what would have taken hours in a warm machine could end up taking us weeks," Frederick Bordry, CERN's director for accelerators, said in Tuesday's statement.
The LHC's thousands of scientists and engineers made history in 2012 when they announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a long-sought subatomic particle that is thought to play a role in imparting mass to other fundamental particles. That discovery filled in the last big gap in the Standard Model of particle physics. During Run 2, the $10 billion collider on the French-Swiss border is expected to address mysteries ranging from the nature of dark matter to the possible existence of mini-black holes and extra spatial dimensions.
CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said the delay in the machine's restart should have little effect on the schedule for the 2015-2018 run. "All the signs are good for a great Run 2," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks' delay in humankind's quest to understand our universe is little more than the blink of an eye."
— Alan Boyle