"Big Bang Machine" to re-start in October

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London, Feb 10 (ANI): CERN has announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will begin collisions in late October and will run through the winter period with only a brief break at Christmas.

The LHC, the biggest atom-smashing machine ever built, straddles the borders of France and Switzerland and is operated by CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

It is designed to simulate the "Big Bang", which started the universe 15 billion years ago, by smashing sub-atomic particles together at energies never before achieved.

But, it suffered a catastrophic malfunction soon after being switched on last September amid a fanfare of publicity.

Officials and scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which built the 4 billion pounds device, have been in talks about when to re-start it.

In October last year, CERN, the LHC's host laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, estimated that the machine would be ready for a restart by the summer, but now, according to a report in Nature News, it seems unlikely that protons will be collided before November.

The delay is due to additional safety protocols and complex repair schedules, according to Steve Myers, CERN's director for accelerators and technology.

"The initial schedule was rather optimistic," he said, adding that he firmly believes that the November date for collisions will be achievable.

To appease impatient high-energy physicists, the laboratory will probably run the machine (albeit at reduced powers) for a ten-month stretch from November until the autumn of 2010.

When it does eventually run, the LHC will use superconducting magnets to collide protons together at close to the speed of light - creating a shower of heavy particles for physicists to study.

In the accident in September, a weld between two sections of the superconducting wire failed.

In the minutes after the accident, several tonnes of liquid helium used to cool the magnets vaporized, creating a pressure build-up that wrenched magnets from their concrete stands.

In total, 53 superconducting magnets must be removed so they can be cleaned, repaired or replaced. Further diagnostic work has since found two more bad welds in magnets in other sectors.

According to Myers, CERN is investigating how the bad welds escaped being detected in quality-control testing by both the manufacturer and the lab.

To fix the welds, the other sectors of the machine must be warmed up, and that means that liquid helium must either be shunted around the ring or put into storage. (ANI)

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