Sunday, November 8, 2009

LHC All Carbed-Out

As if the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) hasn’t seen its share of trouble, what with the spectacular failure last year on Sept. 19, 2008 just days after LHC’s launch that caused a year-long breakdown. On November 5 another, almost comical, accident occurred. This time around the device suffered serious overheating in several sections, causing a temperature differential that triggered an automatic shutdown sequence. It will be offline for the next few days as CERN restarts it.

So what’s so funny about this? It seems that somehow a piece of crusty bread, presumed to be part of a baguette, was found in a piece of equipment on the surface above the accelerator ring. It is thought that a passing bird dropped the morsel. The odd thing about it is that the bread was found inside one of the eight above-ground buildings at the site. Conspiracy theorists take note!

The extended downtime of LHC since original launch last year has proven a costly penalty in terms of funding and delays in experimentation. A whole generation of graduate students in particle physics is being affected due to lack of experimental results upon which their dissertations were to be based. Some have had to pack their bags and come to Fermilab to complete their work.

Let’s hope that this latest misstep isn’t a serious one.

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