Large Hadron Collider at CERN

CERN magnetUPDATE: OCT 15, 2008 – Investigations at CERN* following a large helium leak into sector 3-4 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel have confirmed that cause of the incident was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator’s magnets. This resulted in mechanical damage and release of helium from the magnet cold mass into the tunnel.

Proper safety procedures were in force, the safety systems performed as expected, and no one was put at risk. Sufficient spare components are in hand to ensure that the LHC is able to restart in 2009, and measures to prevent a similar incident in the future are being put in place.

“This incident was unforeseen,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “but I am now confident that we can make the necessary repairs, ensure that a similar incident can not happen in the future and move forward to achieving our research objectives.”

UPDATE: SEPT 10, 2008 – The first particle beam has been sent around the 27km long tunnel at the LHC. This is the equivalent of a computer POST (power on, self test), they are yet to collide any hadrons at near light speed (that will be the BOOT proper). Sciencebase has now published its Large Hadron Collider LHC-FAQ and will keep you up to date with the latest from the LHC via the site’s RSS newsfeed; subscribe for free now to stay informed, alternatively, you can get updates by email. For concerns about black holes and revelations at the Large Hadron Collider, you may wish to read an extended guest post on the subject.

Physics followers among our readers will have no doubt seen the ubiquitous LHC “typo” a million times, so we’ve been very careful to avoid it in this item (email me if you cannot work out what it is). But, one thing that is not unavoidable, is the huge number of news reports that claim there was some kind of mathematical error that led to the recent little big bang at the CERN site.

Jonathan Leake at The Times, for instance, in an article headlined: “Big Bang at the atomic lab after scientists get their maths wrong” says, “A £2 billion project to answer some of the biggest mysteries of the universe has been delayed by months after scientists building it made basic errors in their mathematical calculations.”

Tests were started on the enormous magnets that will pull particles around the accelerator to great speeds in a giant experiment to mimic conditions at the beginning of time. But, I just heard from Fermilab visiting scientist Peter Limon, who is helping to commission the LHC, and he tells an entirely different story. What exactly was the cause of the accident deep underground at the CERN particle accelerator complex near Geneva in Switzerland?

“The problem with the inner triplet magnets in the LHC is as follows,” Limon told me, “The superconducting magnets themselves are in a pressure vessel (called the cold mass) that will eventually be cooled to 1.9 K for operation. These cold masses are suspended inside a cryostat (a vacuum vessel) so that they can be isolated from the heat that would otherwise make it impossible to cool the magnet. The suspension is made of a composite glass/epoxy material to minimize the heat flow from the outside of the vessel into the magnet.”

Some reports have claimed that the magnet was lifted out of its mountings. “The magnets did not lift itself off its mountings,” Limon said emphatically, “The break was in suspension pieces inside the cryostat. There was no motion of the magnet on its mountings, as far as we can tell.”

Limon then explained that, “Because of the geometry and the connections between magnets in the inner triplet, there is an unbalanced longitudinal force on the cold mass when the cold mass is pressurized.” This force, he adds, is transmitted from the cold mass to the the cryostat through the composite suspensions. “The design of the suspensions is inadequate to withstand those forces, but at 20 atmospheres, they broke,” he says, “The pressure test would have been successful if the pressure had gotten to 25 atm.”

Engineering calculations completed independently by Fermilab and CERN on March 28, the day after the accident, showed that the G-11 support structure in the magnets was inadequate to withstand the associated longitudinal forces. The word “inadequate” is rather euphemistic in this context, in reality the equipment simply was not up to the job in hand and it broke under the strain.

“In short,” Limon told me, “this was not a mathematical error, but an engineering omission. The full extent of the unbalanced longitudinal force (as much as 15 tons!) was not taken into account when the suspension was designed.”

I don’t believe design sabotage has been ruled out, but it is rather unlikely. Although the cynical among us will note that Fermilab who designed the magnet is also a scientific rival of CERN itself. Fermilab operates a particle accelerator, Tevatron, that is less powerful than the LHC but which Fermilab scientists are continually pushing to its limits. Moreover, they hope to beat CERN in the race to find the key particle that could unlock the secrets of the universe – the Higgs boson – before the LHC is even fired up.

The repair work by Fermilab and CERN staff, is according to the CERN website “being closely coordinated”. Fermilab personnel are on site at CERN, no doubt working under a cloud. That phrase “closely coordinated” would suggest some serious monitoring of activities. Too right.

Additionally, Fermilab is currently examining all aspects of the US-supplied components for the LHC just in case there are any other “potential vulnerabilities.” Whether CERN’s problems were mathematical or engineering in origin, CERN’s plans have been seriously delayed, which could give the Tevatron, with its dearth of “potential vulnerabilities” a particular advantage in the quest for the secrets of the universe.


On Thursday 26 April, the last superconducting magnet of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 15 metre long dipole weighing 34 tonnes, will be lowered in to the 27 km tunnel of the accelerator. With this magnet, the world’s largest superconducting installation receives its final component. The LHC is made up of some 1700 superconducting magnet assemblies, which will guide and focus the LHC’s particle beams. Teams are at work in the tunnel to conclude the complex task of magnet interconnection, and the sequence of procedures necessary before the machine’s scheduled start-up at the end of the year.

Coming soon: The Large Hadron Collider FAQ (the LHCFAQ) from Sciencebase.

37 thoughts on “Large Hadron Collider at CERN”

  1. who is the founder of this project

    and what is the use of this project

    and what exactly is this project

  2. A failed cooling unit means at least a two-month delay till the LHC scientists can start colliding their hadrons and creating black holes. So, may hay guys before the end of the world, bwahahahahahaaaaargh

  3. Why are we following to prove the Big Bang Hypothesis?? There are other many hypotheses about the evolution of Universe. If we say Big Bang is true then we should consider the Univesrse as the expansion from the point mass which has obviously infinite density. Is it worthwhile to consider infinite density of certain matter?
    But one thing is very important that this experiment is going to be milestone in the understanding of particle physics and interaction of elementary particles. i wish for the grand success of this experiment.

  4. You’re kidding Jenn…they only just switched it on, it will be months before they even start carrying out the hadron collisions the thing was designed for. September 10, was basically a press day, and by all accounts arranged so that the BBC’s Andrew Marr could be there to ask dumb questions about why the test beam took half an hour to travel one circuit even though it was moving at 99.999991% the speed of light.

  5. So.. Just wondering if anyone knows if they have found any new and wonderful information yet from this experiment or will it be some time yet?

  6. Anneka, there’s nothing more natural than human curiosity. There is no real distinction between the natural world and ourselves, we are part of it, we have simply evolved brains that allow us to manipulate it in far more complex ways than other species can and we have an interest in understanding our surroundings, our origins and our destiny. This has given us the understanding and technological advances that allow us to live lives in some sense far more enriched and longer lasting than those of our ancestors.

    As to the so-called risks of the LHC. It’s worth pointing out that the LHC, despite the hype, is not doing anything that doesn’t happen a trillion times a day with cosmic dust and particles impinging our atmosphere with far greater energies than will be even vaguely accessible in the LHC. There is, seriously, nothing to worry about. No scientists are playing at gods, they have simply built a new type of ultra powerful microscope to look deep inside the atom.

  7. exactly the word NATURAL this is something that shouldn’t be messed with and its disgusting that the “scientists” are going ahead with something that could potentially have such disastorous effects. Shouldn’t we all have a say as to whether we wanted this to happen or not. I can’t comprehend how these scientists have been allowed to play God.Why risk the world to find out how it was created? This shouldn’t have been started if they don’t know the definate outcome. To me the people behind this should be locked up and taught ethics and have some reality installed in their power hungry brains. Scientists can’t even cure certain illnesses.. but they want to take on the world!!! I put my faith in God and i hope and pray that common sense and decency will prevail.

  8. Harish, just for the record it’s 100m deep, but the circuit is 27km round. But, either way, there will be no nuclear leakage anyway. The hadron collisions, although highly energetic, are so much smaller than the countless myriad collisions that occur around us everyday in the natural world.

  9. i don think big bang is such a threat as proposed by few other scientists that it would shift the balance of the world. this s just a another evolution in the field of science and it will be greeted with both hands from all corners when this entire project comes out successful. 27 kms in depth , there’s wont be much impact done if any nuclear leakages peeps in. even if it does we have lot of means to curb its activity. so this is all the more safe to experiment and come out with the secret behind earth’s formation.

  10. Science science science, I dont have a problem with theorists, its just when the super egos in the scientific community decide that something unknoiwn is so interesting to them that they suddenly decide that it is the most important thing for the planet that they conduct their insane experiments on these theories regardless of the risk to the rest of us; and at the same time insist that they are the experts and nobdy is clever enough to argue with them, it gives me the dandies.

    To this end we have nuclear weapons (yes, insane without any question) nuclear power stations that provide a tiny amount of electrical power comparitive with the energy produced in reaction, and which leak massively toxic contaminate that can not be removed ever, (lazy in design so, so, lazy… use the heat to drive a steam turbine… wow how ever did they think of that!); genetically modified crops that threaten the entire planets stock of natural food resources; man created toxins and diseases (nice stuff!) that escape the labs that we were assured were impenatrable (UK recently) and may fall into the hands of sociopathsor terrorists; etc etc etc, and what do we have to show for these extremely unessecary and far out branches of science? A site so contaminated that nobody will ever be able to approach it, which remains only just contained and will soon require a new sarcofagus.. (by the way the oldest man made structures on earth dont come close to standing intact for the length of the half life of the contaminate at Chernobyle) what else, 11 sunken nuclear power plants in submarines all still sitting down there at the bottoms of various oceans…. Serously – nothing at all but trouble.

    The rest of us dont need the worlds biggest particle accelerator, we are tryna heal the sick, aid the poor, lobby various governments to stop dropping bombs on each other, write music, build bridges, grow vegies, design power stations that we actually know work and we actually know are clean, design tools to help the sick, and the disabled, design electric generators for personal transport, cleaning up after natural disatsters. Why dont all the pro Hadron Collider boffins work on some real problems first? How about working on a way of sciencing up the sunken nuclear subs that the mad reaches of science invented for us out from the bottom of the ocean instead of messing around trying to crash protons together at the speed of light. Cant they see how their behaviour is so simple? It is so PRIMITIVE – why dont they just go out into their gardens and “bang the rocks together guys…..”
    To say, ….we dont really know whats going to happen, but yeah there is a very slight chance that we may create a disaster which could maybe (we dont know) possibly swallow the planet or a section of it, or super heat all of Europe…., or (whatever) is so incredibly irresponsible and immoral it should, in my opinion, be criminal. (And no, I am not scared of science, and no I am not religious.) – I am, however, sacred of egomaniacs who think they are smarter and doing more important work than the rest of us. The idea that “science” does not have to look at ethics has always annoyed me – it is a clear way of “scientists” avoiding being stopped from what a “scientist” wants to do and hang the consequences for the rest of us. …Oh, well we might create a mini black hole, but thats OK, it might go away… How do people who say these sorts of things ever get funding ? Oh, don t worry, it’s just one mini black whole, and we re sure we can have it house trained before it becomes a real problem…. What is this really about? – finding the dust of a potential God ? – they wont answer that question, just find a need for more and more outlandish experiments and expense – , travelling through time? oh now that’d be productive, the first thing that will happen is that somebody will decide they have to go back in history and stop some tragic major World event (Like (eg) WWII)… or a major world government will have a vote to decide if they should go back in history and (eg) prevent a terror attack, or… stop industrialisation becuase it caused global warming… and where will we all be then Hmmnnnn?
    The argument will be oh this could find a new source of energy – yeah right – how much energy is it going to use? The whole thing frozen to zero kelvin? And thats before they energise the coils on those electro magnets which is gonna draw a bit… and they’re gonna get hot too… so there will need to be further cooling, and i’m only just starting – where is the carbon sink for this one?
    That a nuclear power plant can be put on a spacecraft and sent into orbit without informing the people of the world first and informing them of the risks in the event of destruction of the craft in the atmosphere, and without also allowing a vote requiring a majority above something like two thirds of the population of the planet have a say in it before it happens is in my opinion simply shocking. This is one of those, and if the human population of earth had been offered a vote the answer would be easy to guess.
    And to my critics, I point out in advance (yes, a premptive retaliation) that I remember all through the early eighties physicists and ‘scientists’ and boffins and government insisted that , they had all decided that the China Syndrome was impossible, just fiction – even (perhaps especially) after Three Mile Island – untill of course the lid got blown off at Chernobyle and the world couldnt get accurate details of the event for a day or so… and then we heard it… ahh well actually, if the core has become exposed, well er umm, no we dont actually know whether the China Syndrome is impossible… weel yes it may be possible… its never been tested. And of course it hadn’t – (still hasn’t by the way). Happy particle accelerating people, hope you can keep your magnet brackets glued together.

    PS I am considering starting my own internet pole that is whether we should : LOCK EM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY.

  11. Comment Continuation: When someone mentions Nikola Tesla, which they very seldom do, someone always wants to leave the room! I was amazed however, to find an Internet confirmation reference, to a rumor (I thought!), that appears to be true: The United States Navy Department (USN), with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), moved the Nikola Tesla Manuscripts to the Brookhavens National Laboratory (BNL), for the sole purpose of the building continuation, at CERN LHC/ALICE/ATLAS! I thought these manuscripts would have stayed locked-down by the USN Dept., for Navy Electronic Experiments on ships, and aircraft, as they are known to have done since the 1940’s to this date, and beyond! When I saw this reference, a light came on, and I remembered a confidential comment that I had heard, long ago from a reliable source. It is not publicly validated, but here goes. It was a quote, supposedly taken from a Tesla notebook connected to the main manuscripts, and it goes like this: “Give me enough pure energy, for a long enough period of time, and I will dilate a hole within the fabric of Space/Time, and perhaps Time-Travel with it!” — I believe Tesla could see a threshold, but was uncertain of the threshold location! The modern-day scientific community is in this same quandry! The big question is: At what energy level, and for how long, at what ‘impact moment’, will the Quantum Universe give an unexpected equal and opposite reaction; perhaps exponentially??? Where is this threshold barrier, and at what limit??? We may eventually find out!

  12. Let’s see; THE CERN LHC/ALICE/ATLAS have two 7 TeV colliding head-on proton beams @14TeV, and a decade of already pre-planned precision energy upgrades (2009-2019). They plan to first test, with lower energy-packet pulses at 2008 levels, and then increase the collisions per/second, per ‘impact moment’. They then plan, once financed in 2009, not only to go full-power, but engage ALICE & ATLAS colliding other particles, such as heavy lead(Pb) ions. These create hyper-density plasma, and increase the risk of unknown outcomes! The concerns range from (MBH) Blackholes, Strangelet Transistions, Quantum Wormholes, and Time-Distortions, not to mention complete Protonic Reversal. Even to this minute, the scientists are not sure of the outcome potentials. Stephen Hawking is not sure about ‘Hawking Radiation’, the dissipation of (MBH) Blackholes! The scientists are further not sure, of the complete design of the ‘Standard Model’, except by theoretical mathematics. The underlying search, that is driving the entire project-set are the secrets to: Nuclear Fusion, Plasma Fusion, Higgs Particle, Supersymmetry Particles, Multi-Dimensions, Time – Understanding and Control, and Completion of the ‘Standard Model’ with Superstring Unified Theory! These discoveries are intended to be applied to all branches of science and technology; a prime example is Astrophysics: to answer the Accelerating Universe question! The controllable, and sustainable ‘fusion process’ could meet our future world, desperate energy needs! Despite the LSAG ‘safety report’ being expedited, and riddled with inconsistencies; it is conceivable that these project discoveries, could open the doors to Interstellar Space-Flight, and oh yes, Time-Travel! In this comment, I am neither for, nor against; however, these are some of the general facts, and nothing more!

  13. To: Passerby (at the speed of light); If successful, then the ultimate knowledge for manipulating matter, luminosity, and energy; possibly the secret to controlled, and sustainable nuclear fushion!!! Any further questions?

  14. To: David Bradley; Now I’m really worried, because I am 48, and still waiting!!! Seriously, I just wanted to convey appreciation, for your writing efforts, sincerely!!!

  15. @Robert I. Marsh II

    “There is no doubt, that the future world desperate energy needs lie in LHC technologies;”

    Please explain what in the world the LHC has to do with our ‘desperate energy needs’???

  16. Gosh Robert, this is so unexpected…I’d like to thank…

    But, aren’t lifetime achievement awards for people who are nearly dead? Do you know something I don’t? I’m only 42…

  17. I would like to leave, a written deep-felt commendation of gratitude for: DAVID BRADLEY; for his life-time efforts, and ongoing achievements!!! Keep up the excellent work, and thank you from all of us!!!

  18. It will depend entirely upon the outcome, of the intense series of evaluations, discussions, and multi-faceted complex meetings, that are in progress at CERN, at this time! The LHC delays, are in direct regard to multiple variance-calculation paradoxes: QUANTUM WORMHOLE EXPANSION due to plasmatic hyper-density field generation, creating Quantum Inverse (‘ghost’) Radiation ; and the Quantum Time-Dilation Contraction-Calibration Equations, in regard to the modification confirmations! The clock is still ticking, and we may all have a ring-side ticket!

  19. With half of the ‘Standard Model’ missing, shrouded within a mathematical haze of pure speculation, and the LHC being built upon these antiquated precepts, there is absolutely no way of telling what awaits CERN! It will take these experiments to extricate the physics community from their stagnated, depressing, and quagmired current positions! At least one sector of the ‘Standard Model’ shall receive a tsunami of change, that will send the mathematicians and physicists scrambling wildly, in their ‘click’ groups, to hurriedly install these new, much needed corrections! There is no doubt, that the future world desperate energy needs lie in LHC technologies; however, the production course should be traveled with extreme caution! The LSAG ‘safety report’ covers only lower energy 2008 ‘start-up’ operation projections, and speaks nothing toward the pre-planned decade of precision energy upgrades to come, set to begin in 2009! This same report only covers previous public dockets of concern, and nothing of the ‘new’ emerging risk assessment meetings, that are in progress ‘Behind Closed Doors’! CERN is grappling with multiple variance-calculation paradoxes, even as Michelangelo Mangano (and others) penned the now famous ‘quiet the public’ ‘Safe-Status’ safety report! Two such situations are known: #1). CERN Uncertainty RE: Quantum Time-Dilation Contraction-Calibration Equations; used for particle beam timing/focus to maximize the optimum particles per/second collisions, during ‘Impact Moment’, which are being detector analyzed. This line of equations must be precise, or facility damage may result! #2). RE: ALICE heavy (Pb) ion collisions, scheduled to begin (one financed) in 2009. This project generates hyper-density plasmatic fields, that could affect a gravitational curvature within a forced equilibrium state; thus possibly producing a compression singularity vortex, which can create within super-symmetry ‘feed-back loops’, an event-horizon expansion perimeter! This is known as the expanded: Einstein-Rosen Bridge Wormhole: QUANTUM WORMHOLE! Director General Robert Aymar, Catherine Decosse (ALICE), Michelangelo Mangano, Stephen Hawking, CERN Theory Unit, and LSAG have entered into discussions, at this time!

  20. David:

    Those are pleasant and reassuring thoughts. I wonder if they are true?

    Some physicists think that a micro black hole might grow very slowly at first, which would take billions of years to accrete Earth at that rate, but that as it grew larger, the accretion rate would also increase, so that the acrretion would become exponential, not linear. If that happens, Otto Roessler has estimated accretion in as few as five years.

    Also, there are concerns that colliding Lead nuclei, and deconfining their up and down quarks, while creating large numbers of strange quarks from the huge kinetic energy available [about 1,000 times more than the rest-mass energy of the up/down quarks], might create conditions for the strange quarks to stabilize the mess, forming a strangelet. Collissions of Lead nuclei at these energies do not occur in nature, so we don’t know what will happen. Apparently, most physicists now claim they believe that forming a strangelet would not be possible, but you would not gather that from all the many searches at previous colliders, and the prospective searches at the LHC. They seem to claim both things, depending upon whom they are speaking with – the public who are concerned about runaway fusion reactions of strangelets – or other physicists who enjoy the prospect of engaging in such searches.

    The recent LSAG report, while also ‘reassuring’, is serously flawed in many respects.

  21. Natalie, I think worst case scenario is that if we accidentally created a tiny black hole here on earth the time it would take to grow large enough to cause any damage is longer than the time it will take the Sun to evolve into a red giant that will vaporise all the inner planets anyway. So, it’s probably worth the risk, they may even discover something wonderful when they switch on the LHC, something that might even solve many of today’s problems for generations to come.

  22. Should recreating the big bang theory be a good idea we are clearly not equiped to learn about the secrets of life and the universe, not only that it could be disatrous on a catatonic level its like playing with fire ane eventually you will be burned. And cause irriversable damage Pandoras Box ?

  23. This is awful! They can’t do that! A slight chance? Incredible! if there is even a tiny chance they should never do it.

  24. The Large Hadron Collider [LHC] at CERN might create numerous different particles that heretofore have only been theorized. Numerous peer-reviewed science articles have been published on each of these, and if you google on the term “LHC” and then the particular particle, you will find hundreds of such articles, including: Higgs boson, Magnetic Monopole, Strangelet, and Miniature Black Hole [aka nano black hole].

    If such a mini black hole were created, it could potentially be disastrous.

    You can read Dr Wagner’s complete riposte to the idea of creating nano black holes in the laboratory in this Sciencebase page – Black Holes and Revelations.

  25. June 22, 2007 – CERN Council today announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is now scheduled to start up in May 2008. Finally, then we might find the answer to life, the universe, and everything…or maybe not.

  26. It is unpleasant, I didn’t mean to sound so cynical and scathing. The people involved are actually working incredibly hard to help us answer some of the most important questions physics faces. Funny, though I just got a press invitation to the inauguration of the next phase of the project, it’s almost as if they’ve forgotten it happened…or putting on a super cynical hat, perhaps it was all just a giant publicity stunt to get LHC, Big Bangs, and enormous magnets into the press, and as a byproduct drum up more public interest in the project as a whole.

  27. While it’s always unpleasant when something like that happens, I never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity (Hanlon’s Razor).

    Having said that I must say I am not impressed by the quality of young engineer that has been tuned out of late. As a rule I have found them more will to accept what computer models are telling them than trust in common sense and they are not developing a ‘feel’ for the work which is so necessary both for design and for troubleshooting.

    Yes I know I’m an old man, and old men are never happy with the generation coming up from below, but I do think there is a real gap there that should be addressed. I’ve seen the same issues in my own field (metallurgy) in that I have a hard time making youngsters understand that there is a good deal of this that is still empirical and that you can’t always find the answers written down somewhere.

Comments are closed.

If you learned something from Sciencebase, enjoyed a song, snap, or the science, please consider leaving a tip to cover costs. The site no longer runs Google ads or similar systems, so your visit is untainted.