Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bad News From Switzerland

This is incredibly bad news.

Let me back up some. The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in CERN is the next-generation particle accelerator. It will, at the very very least, tell us how correct the Standard Model is. It could show us the Higgs Boson (the so-called God Particle that I'll have to do a post on some time, the short version is that it gives all matter mass), and possibly even mini black holes. It could very well tear our knowledge a new one once it starts smashing protons together.

But in a stress test over the weekend the casing of one of a series of crucial magnets (in an accelerator magnetic fields accelerate and direct the particles) failed and broke (for more technical details see the link above). A press release from Fermi-lab (who designed the magnets) said it could delay the LHC up to three years. However, Scientific American link above cites CERN scientists as saying that it has yet to be determined how long the delay will be.

That is incredibly bad news. There are people working in every branch of physics, from String Theory to Cosmology, and especially particle physics, who have been waiting to see what will fly out when two protons hit at 7 Tera-electron-Volts. It will be a big blow for the LHC to be delayed, when it was so close to yielding the anticipated data. I'm sure that the entire physics community is hoping for some good news in the next few days (or weeks). I know I'll have my fingers crossed that this is only a minor problem. It would be devastating if it weren't.

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