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Scientists fix "Big Bang" machine's glitches ahead of particle smash next week

Tue, 01 Jan 2008 ANI

London, September 18 (ANI): Engineers have fixed the glitches in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and the machine is all set to start smashing its first particles together early next week.


The LHC circulates particles in a 17-mile circumference underground tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border at The European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland, known by the acronym CERN.


According to a report in the Times, although scientists had hoped that the successful creation of the particle accelerator's first beams last Wednesday would clear the way for trial collisions this week, the timetable has had to be delayed because of power failures that affected its cooling system.


The problems were resolved finally yesterday and the team was planning to resume circulating beams of protons around the 17-mile (27km) ring last night.


The success should allow the two beams to be fired in opposite directions early next week, and then crashed together inside the vast detectors of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).


Although the energy of these first collisions will be only 6 per cent of the maximum the LHC will achieve eventually, they will be a critical step forward.


Their results will enable scientists to calibrate and test the detectors, before collisions at about 70 per cent of the accelerator's capacity begin next month.


It is then that the LHC will start to provide data that could prove the existence of the Higgs boson - the so-called God particle - and answer other questions about the nature of the Universe.


Once the two beams had been inserted into the LHC ring last Wednesday, the next task was to "capture" them so that protons could be fired in neat pulses or "bunches".


One of the beams had been captured by Friday, but work was then interrupted by the loss of electrical transformers that power the cryogenic cooling system, which chills the LHC's superconducting magnets to 1.9 Celsius above absolute zero.


According to Laurent Tavian, head of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) cryogenics group, the faults had now been fixed.


Engineers could proceed with "capturing" the second beam, allowing for collisions within days.


"The plan is now to capture the second beam, and once both beams are ready and captured we can start to do collisions," Dr Tavian said. (ANI)


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