August 7, 2009

Atom Smasher To Restart In November

The mysteries of the universe will remain unknown for a few months longer after the CERN announcement that the giant particle collider will restart in November.

CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, says the restart will mean the world's biggest atom smasher will operate below full power.

No more repairs would be necessary for "safe running" this year and next, according to a CERN statement.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) promises to unlock scientific mysteries about the creation of the Universe and the fundamental nature of matter.

The $9.4 billion machine over-heated and needed to be switched off just nine days after its inauguration in September 2008.

Its experiments are meant to reproduce conditions just after the "Big Bang" that scientists believe created the universe.

The LHC is nestled inside a tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

The LHC's components had been tested to an energy equivalent of five teraelectronvolts at full power.

"We've selected 3.5 teraelectronvolts to start because it allows the the LHC operators to gain experience of running the machine while opening up a new discovery region for the experiments," said CERN's director general Rolf Heuer.

He tried to reassure the public about the ability of the complex machine.

"The LHC is a much better understood machine than it was a year ago," he said. "We can look forward with confidence and excitement to a good run through the winter and into next year."

The first data should be collected a few weeks after the first particle beam is fired.

CERN said the partial power level will be kept until "a significant data sample has been gathered" and ramped up thereafter.

The team says the experiments would take place at just above absolute zero to recreate the conditions believed to have been present at the beginning of the universe 13.7 billion years ago.


Image Credit: NASA


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