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CERN cuts power to part of the LHC, says the setback is minor

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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LHC, CERNJust two days after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reached a major milestone by producing 1.18 terra-electron volts (TeV), more than one trillion electron volts) of energy, the particle physics lab CERN had to cut power to one of the accelerator’s sites following a problem with a power supplier. The outage did not affect the cryogenics required for operation, and a CERN spokeswoman in Geneva, Switzerland, was optimistic that the power would be back up by 6:30 P.M. local time.

Although the report of another failure at the LHC could spur concerns of a recurrence of more serious problems that recently shut the system down for more than a year, comments posted to the lhcportal.com forum indicated that the failed 18-kilovolt circuit breaker would not delay any upcoming experiments.

The failure occurred at 1:23 A.M. Geneva time at the Meyrin site and caused a power cut across the site, shutting down the main computer center among other things and causing an abrupt cessation of operations, The Register reported Wednesday. However, the LHC’s magnets stayed chilled down to their operating temperature—1.9 degrees above absolute zero—which means CERN scientists don’t have to engage the time-consuming process of re-chilling the equipment, according to The Register.

The power loss experienced Wednesday is not in the same league as the incident that shut the LHC down in September 2008, nine days after beams began circulating. At that time a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle accelerator broke down due to a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, causing a helium leak into the LHC’s tunnel. Lengthy repair work ensued. Proton beams started circulating again through the collider’s 27-kilometer underground rings on November 20.

The LHC’s mission is to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe, explain why particles have mass and search for dark matter.

Image © CERN

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  1. 1. Xymox 1:41 pm 12/2/2009

    The link to my site, LHCPortal is wrong..

    http://www.lhcportal.com/

    Link to this
  2. 2. lgreenemeier 2:44 pm 12/2/2009

    Xymox, thanks for pointing that out. It’s been corrected.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Michael Hanlon 8:55 pm 12/2/2009

    OMG!, the failures are spreading like a virus.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Quinn the Eskimo 1:21 am 12/3/2009

    CERN is probably "temporary" once they get to full power.

    Hey! What smart-grid are *they* using? Huh, algore?

    Link to this
  5. 5. nawarmind 5:42 am 12/3/2009

    failures are the new world order?before we were out of this order when we went to the moon or through our space explorations missions during the sixty’s and seventy’s, Why now? can anybody tell us Why? due to my expirence in using gagdits i founded that all the electornic and electric devices who where bulit in china are missrable?May be they are using some of them in CERN these days? sorry guys but if any one have another explanation fell free to send to my account:
    nawarmind@yahoo.com

    Link to this
  6. 6. nawarmind 5:43 am 12/3/2009

    failures are the new world order?before we were out of this order when we went to the moon or through our space explorations missions during the sixty’s and seventy’s, Why now? can anybody tell us Why? due to my expirence in using gagdits i founded that all the electornic and electric devices who where bulit in china are missrable?May be they are using some of them in CERN these days? sorry guys but if any one have another explanation fell free to send to my account:
    nawarmind@yahoo.com

    Link to this
  7. 7. eibenag 10:02 am 12/3/2009

    The LHC fails simply because it is an extraordinarily complex beast, and CERN has not yet had the time to discover and correct all of the kinks! They cannot find these problems until they turn the thing on, and they cannot turn it on until all existing problems have been rectified. Everyone knew this from the beginning, because that is simply how particle accelerators behave! One does not throw a switch and then wait for magic to happen. Instead, one turns the machine on at the lowest possible energy, waits for something to break, turns the machine off, fixes whatever breaks, turns it back on at the lowest energy, and waits for something to break. If nothing breaks, then one goes to the next lowest energy and waits for something to break . . .

    By coaxing the machine into revealing all of its flaws, the operators at CERN are avoiding the catastrophic failure that would inevitably result from cranking the thing up to full power on the first go. Just give them time–they’ll have it up and running.

    Also, the assertion that spaceflight throughout the 60′s and 70′s was without failure is completely wrong. This link lists all of the accidents and incidents that threatened or took human lives. However, it neglects all of the failures of unmanned spaceflights and any incident that was not deemed life-threatening.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_accidents_and_incidents

    Link to this
  8. 8. taerog 8:41 pm 12/3/2009

    Ya, WTF . . . this is the LARGEST and MOST COMPLEX MACHINE on the planet . . . just the fact that it runs at all is amazing. They have to QA and work out the kinks before doing anything big. . .
    The first Iphone did just work by magic the first time, It takes a allot of hard work and time to get even something as "SIMPLE" as that to work reliability. . the CERN is crazy more complex that that. . . What is wrong with you people?!?

    Link to this
  9. 9. Michael Hanlon 11:49 pm 12/5/2009

    Have they accounted for Coryolis effect in the counter rotation? NO!

    Link to this
  10. 10. HarryNose 11:59 pm 12/5/2009

    You probably mean to say 1.18 tera electron volts since terra would mean "earth". A bit disappointing for a scientific journal.

    Link to this
  11. 11. bacteria 9:34 am 12/8/2009

    The idea that the most expensive, perfect weapon ever constructed, the light speed, super-fluid, 7 teravolts quark cannon built by the Nuclear Company of Europe (the LHC) represents no danger to mankind, because it has also some peaceful fringe benefits (the study of subatomic particles) is an oxymoron. All military technologies have peaceful applications but those facts must not hide the primary consequences of their use. Weapons are lineal systems that release enormous quantities of energy, able to erase the complex, fragile information that creates life; and the quark cannon, called in the peaceful newspeak of the new era, the Large Hadron Collider, is not an exception. It is the final evolution of the Industry of Cannons, intimately related to the evolution of Physics, the science that studies energy and motion, founded by Galileo, a mechanist working for the Arsenal of Venice, which discovered those laws of motion, studying cannonball trajectories, 400 years ago. The duality of the fruits of the tree of science, with its positive influence on knowledge and its negative consequences for human life are exemplified as never before by this quark cannon. Yet in this case, the negative consequences, the possible extinction of life, far outweigh the benefits for our knowledge of the Universe, and this is the key fact that the Nuclear Company has successfully hidden to the public and governments that founded this absurd quest for reaching the energies of the big-bang that once might have destroyed the Universe and now menace to destroy the planet Earth.

    Link to this
  12. 12. taerog 2:58 pm 12/8/2009

    LHC a Weapon?!? LOL oh my that is the best one I have heard yet . . . thanks for the laugh . . . . oh that is just too good . .I have to tell a few co-workiers . . . This goes right up there in the list of Crazy sauce, right behind time travel stopping the LHC from working . . ha hah ha

    Link to this

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