Giant particle smasher to restart at half its designed energy

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London, August 7 (ANI): Reports indicate that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's most powerful particle smasher will restart in November at just half the energy the machine was designed to reach.

The LHC is a new particle accelerator at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, designed to answer fundamental questions, such as what gives elementary particles their mass, by colliding particles at higher energies than ever achieved in a laboratory before.

But, the first attempt to turn on the LHC failed in September 2008 when a joint connecting a pair of superconducting wires overheated, causing an explosive release of helium used as a coolant.

Scientists have been making repairs and checking the strength of other electrical connections since then to pave the way for a second start attempt.

Now, according to a report in New Scientist, CERN has announced that the LHC's first data collecting run, to begin in November, will collide protons at only half the energy the accelerator was designed to achieve.

The run will initially smash protons together at 7 trillion electron volts (7 TeV), compared to the design goal of 14 TeV, according to a CERN statement on August 6.

But, even 7 TeV is much higher than physicists have ever probed in the laboratory before. The Tevatron accelerator at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, is the current record holder, with collisions at 2 TeV.

No one knows exactly what energy threshold must be crossed to catch a glimpse of new and exotic physics that is not contained in the standard model of particle physics, which fits everything seen so far at lower energies.

But, new phenomena are widely expected somewhere between one and a few TeV.

According to Greg Landsberg of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, "Nature is full of surprises and something exciting and possibly unexpected could happen at 7 TeV. Extra dimensions could easily open up at that energy."

This first run is supposed to last until late 2010, and CERN plans to boost the energy to 10 TeV before it is over.

After the 2009-2010 run, the LHC will be shut down, with upgrades made to allow it to go to higher energies.

Measurements have revealed that some of the electrical connections are not robust enough to handle operation beyond 10 TeV.

The ultimate goal is still to reach 14 TeV.

Landsberg believes the LHC will reach that energy eventually, but is not sure how long it will take. Whether it is "one year, two years or three years is anyone's guess", he said. (ANI)

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