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Earliest LHC Restart Slated For Late Summer 2009 229

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-it's-cheap dept.
gaijinsr writes "The damage done in what CERN calls the 'S34 Incident' (and what other people call a major explosion in the cryogenics system) is much more serious than originally admitted: The earliest possible restart date is late summer next year, but with some proposed improvements to avoid repetitions of the incident, it looks more like 2010. They kept this pretty quiet up to now, not the kind of information policy I would expect from CERN."
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Earliest LHC Restart Slated For Late Summer 2009

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  • Yay! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:11PM (#25903897) Journal

    The universe is saved for a couple of more years! Now's the time to form our new national holiday "Beat the Hell out of the Atheist Murderous Universe-destroying Physicists Day".

  • by Cyberax (705495) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:13PM (#25903911)

    The current fortune cookie at the end of pages is somehow very fitting:

    " The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan"

    • by TypoNAM (695420)

      Mine says "Two cars in every pot and a chicken in every garage."

      That's not what I had in mind for a thanks giving...

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Mine is "Two cars in every pot and a chicken in every garage."

      I'm trying to relate this to the LHC, but I'm coming up empty here...
      • by Cyberax (705495)

        Well, you're too slow. Cookie has already changed.

        Apparently, Slashdot is indifferent to slow posters like you :)

      • well since the lhc will destroy existence by creating a black whole perhaps he is inferring that the singularity inside a black hole will actually take us to another universe or dimension.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jabbrwokk (1015725)
        I think it's probably more related to the THC
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Strep (956749)
        We could go for THC related and have pot in every garage!
        • by dimeglio (456244)

          Funny you mention pot. I had a dream about chicks looking to me to get high. This must have been a transmission from a different universe. LHC need to help us find this universe for the sanity of the human race (well that's what will be in the business case).

  • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:17PM (#25903957)
    I bet the first time it is actually used in a full power experiment will be December 21, 2012.
    • Re:My prediction (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:26PM (#25904637)

      the Mayan calendar merely resets at that date. similar to how computers were expected to reset at y2k, it was not that they expected the world to end they just did not include dates after that much like our calendar does not include specifically year numbers for after 9999(unless you count adding a digit but in that case you would expect the current year to be specified as 02008). http://www.xkcd.com/509/ is somewhat relevant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 4D6963 (933028)
        But if not for that date, then when else would we set our upcoming Impending Doom day? We need those for, you know, having the feeling of being at the ends of times and therefore on a sort of historical cutting edge, rather than in the middle of a long era during which our precise time isn't much more important than any other time in history.
      • the Mayan calendar merely resets at that date. similar to how computers were expected to reset at y2k

        Indeed, I've heard that there's a big boom going on in Central America for stonemasons. All sorts of contractors are already down there, urgently carving updates into the hieroglyphs on all the pyramids and temples before the rollover date.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rxmd (205533)

        the Mayan calendar merely resets at that date. similar to how computers were expected to reset at y2k, it was not that they expected the world to end they just did not include dates after that much like our calendar does not include specifically year numbers for after 9999

        Actually it's even less catastrophic than that. The Mayan long count calendar [wikipedia.org] is based on a hierarchical system of cycles, called kin (1 day), winal (20 days), tun (18 winal), katun (20 tun) and baktun (20 katun). Dates are indicated by giving the position in the relative cycle, so today, November 27, 2008, would usually be quoted as 12.19.15.15.15 in the Long Count calendar. You can check out the conversion formula e.g. in the source code for Fourmilab's calendar converter [fourmilab.ch].

        The five-position notation for

    • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
      Maybe that's the day they find proof of the Higgs Boson and the world as we know it will change?
  • Information policy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The_Wilschon (782534) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:17PM (#25903961) Homepage

    They kept this pretty quiet up to now, not the kind of information policy I would expect from CERN.

    Ummmm, perhaps scientists don't like to make statements that they aren't reasonably sure of? If there were still some disagreement or doubt about this timetable, I would fully expect them to keep it internal, and would be disappointed if they made a public statement prematurely. It's not like this timetable is exactly time critical today or anything...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:24PM (#25904051)

      This is a work funded by taxpaid dollars, so it should be kept open and transparent. The author of the article is right in this premise.

      But I disagree strongly with her perception of the situation. CERN's earlier statements have only been that they did not know how long repairs would take, but that the earliest LHC could possibly restart would be late spring 2009. This is the first time to my knowledge that they have given an estimate of when they actually expect the accelerator to be ready. There was nothing hidden or hushed up about this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181)

        Maybe they had to take some big pieces of machinery apart before making a definitive statement. That takes time.

        Even worse than a late statement would be making a statement then changing it a couple of weeks later.

      • CERN is nothing to do with the USA.

      • This is a work funded by taxpaid dollars, so it should be kept open and transparent.

        What, you expect to read about day-to-day work on http:///planet.lhc.cern.ch/ [lhc.cern.ch]? ;)

        While I'm all for transparency in spending of my tax money, sooner or later you have to stop micromanaging and let people do their job. Otherwise, you will get less for your money.

        I'm paid tax money in my current occupation (CS student). I'm hoping there's enough oversight that you can trust that I'll be thrown out on my ass if I'm not worth the money I'm paid, without me having to be held accountable to other people than my

    • by rev_karol (735616) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:57PM (#25904367)
      Well I can tell you that the rest of us at CERN were kept quite in the dark by the management too. There are pictures of the cryo incident which they won't allow to be released.

      The LHC is its own prototype. Similar beam related incidents happened at Fermilab. It's shit but it happens, and they handled it dreadfully.

      Some big numbers were thrown out there about how much the accident will cost, but in real terms it comes our as a very small fraction compared to overall LHC costs.

      Everyone at CERN is very disappointed about it, naturally, but it's up to us now to better prepare ourselves for the new startup.
  • What do you expect? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:24PM (#25904041)

    The LHC has been longer in development than the WWW exists (there are screenshots around from the "first website ever" that had design drawings of the atlas detector on it.

    It has happened. They got to fix it, piece by piece. Do you really need a "what cf flanges we replaced today" blog?

    • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:08PM (#25904459) Homepage

      Karma whoring linky here [madsci.org].

    • by bckrispi (725257) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:59PM (#25905251)
      Not only that, but the WWW was invented for the purpose of supporting the work being done on the LHC. [w3.org]

      Many of the discussions of the future at CERN and the LHC era end with the question - "Yes, but how will we ever keep track of such a large project?" This proposal provides an answer to such questions. Firstly, it discusses the problem of information access at CERN. Then, it introduces the idea of linked information systems, and compares them with less flexible ways of finding information.

      It then summarises my short experience with non-linear text systems known as hypertext, describes what CERN needs from such a system, and what industry may provide. Finally, it suggests steps we should take to involve ourselves with hypertext now, so that individually and collectively we may understand what we are creating.

      This being said, I'd say that the LHC has already paid for itself a thousand times over.

      • by lgw (121541)

        The WWW was just hypertext on the internet, and not really a new idea at the time. Ted Nelson invented the "hypertext" concept in 1963, and hypertext became commercially available in 1987. Just how long *has* the LHC been in development?

        • The WWW was just hypertext on the internet

          With flexible markup and layout, and extensible content type handling. Compare w/ gopher.

          Maybe that +Internet were the essentials.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        This being said, I'd say that the LHC has already paid for itself a thousand times over.

        And changed the world as we know it.

      • Ugh, you mean the LHC was responsible for the creation of the web and the downfall of the internet? That's far worse than destroying the solar system by tampering with unknown forces.
    • It has happened. They got to fix it, piece by piece. Do you really need a "what cf flanges we replaced today" blog?

      No no, hourly twitter updates will be fine =)

      I kid, I kid

  • With the data... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FrameRotBlues (1082971) <framerotblues@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:27PM (#25904079) Homepage Journal
    They've got a lot of data to figure out what probably happened. But, FTFA:

    Most likely cause : an electric arc due to rupture of the interconnection. Unfortunately this is difficult to prove, since the whole dipole interconnect was 'vaporised' during the event!

  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:37PM (#25904185) Homepage Journal
    Keep in mind all information coming out of there has to escape the black hole's pull.
  • Some Further Info (Score:5, Informative)

    by ruuskado (1418027) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:47PM (#25904279)
    I once worked at on the LHC at CERN and still have some contacts there and in a couple of conversations have come across some rather interesting bits of information. The fault has been isolated to a single connector, however the analysis was rather difficult as a large amount of the suspect conductor was vaporized by the current surge. The wires are supposed to carry 8,700-Amps!!! at full power, the intrinsic resistance in this particular bad joint caused some localized heating which then caused a portion of the conductor to no longer be superconducting. all of the current then passed through a sudden, unexpected load and voile, lots of heat, boiling helium and a chain reaction of nastiness. Looks like the pressure discs ruptured as expected, but they were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of boiling Helium, 6-Tons!, and the vacuum vessel buckled and ruptured causing other magnets to quench. the sheer force of the expansions knocked more than 20 of these steering magnets off of their supports. Slightly more problematic then first reports indeed. There was always an expectation of shutting down the beam for the Winter as the cost of electricity for the experiment is a major operational consideration and rises prohibitively for the experiment during peak heating season. Hope that they can fix their problems and catch any other flaws before they attempt to ramp up again. Here's to the exploration of fundamental principles.
    • by bitrex (859228)
      I'd like to use this as a bedtime story for people going to have an MRI the next day.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      In a superconductor, current doesn't matter, you could have 8.7x10^100 Amps and it would make no difference to the conductor.

      Now, to nearby magnetic fields, it would make a whole lot of difference, but only on the surface of the conductor.

      Now... if there was a flaw in the conductor... oops!

  • it just heated up too fast and expanded too quickly. ~:-)
  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:51PM (#25904325)

    The beam would make a good weapon (if the LHC a bad weapons system).

    The beam was 200 MJoules, the equivalent of 48 kilo's of TNT. That's a pretty good bomb if it should hit you.

    (Note that there are 2 beams; it is not clear to me if that is the energy per beam on in total.)

  • They kept this pretty quiet up to now, not the kind of information policy I would expect from CERN.

    Your faith in the openness and transparency of government boondoggles is touching.

  • by MaxwellEdison (1368785) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:03PM (#25904413)
    The repairs will actually be done a little sooner, but they pushed back the release date so they wouldn't have to fight with Star Trek [startrekmovie.com], Transformers [imdb.com], or Harry friggin Potter [imdb.com]. Just be lucky Iron Man [imdb.com] is waiting until 2010 or we'd never get any sciencing or universe imploding done.
  • I wonder what the event would have looked like in the tunnel when that helium escaped. I'm sure things got pretty frosty in that section of the tunnel. Does anyone have photos of the damage?
  • Some notes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:09PM (#25904461) Homepage

    The initial cause of the incident was probably a bad weld in a busbar joint. But they'll never know; the entire busbar was vaporized when it lost superconductivity under load.

    The quench protection system wasn't designed to properly handle a failure of the superconducting busbar between two magnets. There's an elaborate system to dump the energy from a magnet that's starting to lose superconductivity into a big resistor bank. They expected occasional problems within the magnet windings, but this failure wasn't in a winding. The quench system is being redesigned.

    The cryogenic system needs many more pressure relief valves. In this event, 6 tons of liquid helium was vaporized, which is 30,000 cubic meters at 1 atmosphere. That much helium couldn't get out of the existing relief valves fast enough, sizable parts of the plumbing were damaged, and magnets were pushed off their mounts. Now that was just bad pressure-vessel design. They should have had enough relief valves or rupture discs for the worst-case scenario. That would have localized the problem. Given the huge amount of energy in the magnets, in close proximity to liquid helium, in an experimental machine, this could not be a totally unexpected possibility.

    More relief valves are going in, which means the whole ring has to be brought up to room temperature and atmospheric pressure for plumbing work. Then the whole commissioning process has to be repeated, which takes months.

    The tunnels are empty of people when power is on, because if all that helium vents, the air is unbreathable. But this event was big enough that it could have affected people in experiment halls at tunnel level. If this had happened during actual use, people could have been killed.

    A magnet quench isn't supposed to be a big deal. Early design specs said that restarting after a magnet quench should only take a few hours. Oops.

    • Thanks for the excellent info. Problems will occur when you're still tweaking your prototype.

    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      Good points, Animats. Cryo liquids can expand very quickly. I like your mention of rupture disks as a last ditch pressure release option.

      That much helium couldn't get out of the existing relief valves fast enough, sizable parts of the plumbing were damaged, and magnets were pushed off their mounts.

      Expanding or contacting piping can actually move/distort structures (say, buildings anchored onto foundations as an example) that you might think to be "solid".

      Paul
  • Some random points (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:26PM (#25904639)

    I work on one of the LHC experiments, so I'm posting anonymously.

    1) CERN's communication has been lacking. Especially in deleting reports immediately after the incident on their eLog that had been open. That was a black eye on their image.

    2) Plans change as more information comes in, so no one should be surprised by initial statements saying "The earliest possible date is several months" (which would be the case if no magnets needed replacing) followed by Spring '09 if everything goes well. This is now followed by Summer '09 to just repair the problems and late '09/ early '10 if remedial actions are taken.

    3) CERN is changing directors in a month or so. The new director will make the decision of cautious startup vs. remediation and more aggressive startup. My expectation is the latter.

    The world can wait an extra year for these results. I feel bad for the students and post-docs who are waiting for the data to emerge, though.

    • I work on the LHC experiments as well, so I'm posting anonymously, too.

      1) The failure of the flux capacitor was actually the real cause of the shutdown (although this will never be released due to the humiliation that would be heaped upon them for such a simple mistake - see below).

      2) Apparently no one told them that when you accelerated it beyond 88 mph (within the limit of their test runs) it would create a hole in time/space through which a moderately-priced novelty sports car (or something of equi
      • Somehow I don't see the LHC fitting into a Deorean, and the car being drivable afterwards.
      • by Warll (1211492)

        "by Arthur Grumbine (1086397): I work on the LHC experiments as well, so I'm posting anonymously, too."

        Lol...

        Posting anon because I just made an off topic post.

    • by icepick72 (834363)
      I work on one of the LHC experiments, so I'm posting anonymously too.
      What are we having for lunch tomorrow guys? Maybe someone can spot me a ten because I haven't made it to the ATM yet.
    • by trip11 (160832) *
      I am one of those students waiting for data actually. I was even at the talk in question. One thing though is that the 2010 plan is just a proposed plan, nothing in stone. Apparently it has less support than the plan starting this summer, but they are still debating which is the best way to go.

      There was another announcement recently as well pointing towards the summer 2009 plan, so it is probably more likely. We'll know more in Feb once they've had more chance to study the data from the incident.

  • Whatever. (Score:5, Funny)

    by IWood (1380317) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:00PM (#25904869)
    I've got my crowbar. Bring it on.
  • This fits exactly with all released information about the incident.

    What, did you just look at 50+ pages and say "aHA it worse!"
    Moron.

    They will do a limited firing in 2009, possibly with no beam.
    This makes sense becasue that can't run during the winter.
    Well they could, but Geneva wouldn't be habitable!

  • I'm waiting for it to be delayed until 2012 and for people to flip out in a way not seen since "The Great Disappointment." We have a few years for people to build their bunkers before CERN starts back up. In all seriousness though, I can't wait for it to be turned back on, every day it's delayed is just delaying possible breakthroughs in science.
  • by magi (91730) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:30PM (#25905063) Homepage Journal

    LHC is obviously a doomsday machine. Turning it on will immediately destroy humankind in all the parallel universes where it works. Therefore, in the universes where we stay alive, we will always see it fail. The failure proves the parallel structure of the universe.

  • While most of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere admittedly, can we please reduce the ambiguity by referring to an approximate date (e.g. August 2009) instead of the season?

    • I would think that most of the people reading this are aware that the LHC is located in the Northern hemisphere.

    • by infolib (618234)
      If you'd RTFA you'd have known that that was the precision given in the internal CERN presentation. That mentions "summer" because the machine shuts down during winter anyway to leave the Swiss with enough electricity. Hence the important question is for which operating seaon the repairs can be done.
  • "S34 Incident" stands for either "Black Mesa Incident" or "Judgement Day. Pick one.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      I wonder how long before we get some trashy sci-fi novel called "The S34 Incident" about how aliens blew up the LHC to keep us from going back in time or something else equally ludicrous.

  • To repair the problem and get operational as soon as possible was the answer to the first time given. The longer time frame is to modify the design to prevent this failure from happening again. If they went the first option, if this ever happened again, it would again be months to repair it (and the failure could kill people). The longer time frame will change a design consideration so that if this happens again, they could possibly be back operational within hours at no risk to people.

    I would guess tha
  • i was all ready for the interdimensional warp that would teleport the world !!
  • A huge black hole,

    for MONEY.

    Not trolling, just watching. Wow. I've said it before, I'll say it again. They have the best grant writers ... in the world.
  • I mean come on ....calling it the S34 incident is just begging for a cheasy sci-fi flick to be made about it.

    CERN calls it the 'S34 Incident'
    Other's call it a major explosion in the cryogenics system
    I say the gates of hell have been opened


    This Fall
    Prepare to Collide with this seasons blockbuster...
    S....3....4

    This film is not yet raited.
  • It's so obvious now.

    The Higgs Boson was a front. The LHC is a prototype of the hardware intended to run Duke Nukem Forever.

  • They kept this pretty quiet up to now, not the kind of information policy I would expect from CERN

    I think the explanation is straightforward: this is a very complex system, not only to build and run, but also to figure out why things went wrong. The modern day public are used to a media circus, where we follow events as closely as possible - but heavily edited for whatever pseudo-drama can be wrung out of it, to make it look like a soap-opera or a "reality" tv show. One can't blame them for not buying into that - they just want to figure out what went wrong, repair things and get on with research; they

  • Would *you* really let someone dumb enough to brag about the black hole machine suddenly exploding catastrophically the first time it was turned on to the uneducated (and easily panicked) masses back at the controls for another try?

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