Did the group spearheading the world's biggest physics experiment just not want to spoil the party?
Within hours of its launch, the Large Hadron Collider malfunctioned, its operator has admitted — a week after powerful particle accelerator was turned on, the Associated Press is reporting.
A 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle smasher broke on Sept. 11 after scientists sent a counter-clockwise beam around the 17-mile tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border, raising temperatures in the ring to 4.5 Kelvin (-451.57 Fahrenheit). The first, clockwise beam had been sent around the tunnel the day before, when the LHC was turned on.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research has replaced the transformer and cooled the underground ring back down to near zero on the Kelvin scale, its optimal temperature for research, according to AP. " The LHC is on course for [its] first collisions in a matter of weeks," CERN said in a statement.
Judith Jackson of the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia, Ill., tells AP the malfunction isn't dangerous or a big deal. Fermilab houses the Tevatron, which collides protons and antiprotons in an underground 4-mile ring. "These things happen," Jackson tells the newswire. "It's a little setback and it sounds like they've dealt with it and are moving forward."
The LHC will study why particles have mass and look for dark matter as part of an effort to better understand the origins of the universe.
(Image by CERN)