End of the World Postponed
The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva will be shut off until spring 2009 while engineers probe a magnet failure.
The incident on 19 September caused a tonne of liquid helium to leak out into the experiment’s 27km-long tunnel.
Officials said the time required to fully investigate the problem precluded a re-start before the lab’s winter maintenance period.
The collider is built to smash protons together at huge speeds, recreating conditions moments after the Big Bang.
Scientists hope it will shed light on fundamental questions in physics.
"Coming immediately after the very successful start of LHC operation on 10 September, this is undoubtedly a psychological blow," said Robert Aymar, director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), in a statement.
But he praised the skill and preparation of the teams involved in building the particle accelerator.
The problem occurred last weekend, when a failure, known as a quench, caused around 100 of the LHC’s super-cooled magnets to heat up by as much as 100 degrees.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief until Easter 2009.
Sigh of relief?Â There’s nothing to be frightened about, here.Â On the contrary, it means we have to wait longer to know what there is to be discovered deep in God’s creation.Â These scare stories about black holes – I don’t know why people think they could be formed, but even if they were, they’d be unstable.Â To be stable, a black hole has to have at least 10 times the mass of the Sun.Â The theory of what would happen with less massive black holes has been worked by no less a person than Stephen Hawking.Â Â These light black holes will lose mass by radiation as a result of quantum tunnelling.Â In fact, they’d be more properly called ‘white holes’ because of the glow, and the smaller they are, the stronger the glow. And, losing mass, they’d grow smaller and smaller and brighter and brighter and finally go ‘pop’ and be no more.