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Europe's LHC To Run At Half-Energy Through 2011 194

quaith writes "ScienceInsider reports that Europe's Large Hadron Collider will run at half its maximum energy through 2011 and likely not at all in 2012. The previous plan was to ramp it up to 70% of maximum energy this year. Under the new plan, the LHC will run at 7 trillion electron-volts through 2011. The LHC would then shut down for a year so workers could replace all of its 10,000 interconnects with redesigned ones allowing the LHC to run at its full 14 TeV capacity in 2013. The change raises hopes at the LHC's lower-energy rival, the Tevatron Collider at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, of being extended through 2012 instead of being shut down next year. Fermilab researchers are hoping that their machine might collect enough data to beat the LHC to the discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle key to how physicists explain the origin of mass."
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Europe's LHC To Run At Half-Energy Through 2011

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  • by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:42PM (#31018282)
    7 TeV is still more than 3 times Fermilab's total collision energy.

    This more conservative ramp up is probably smart given the previous problems with equipment failure on the LHC. This will allow the systems to be tested thoroughly before going to max capacity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:54PM (#31018364)

    I may not be a scientist, but shouldn't a design cover the requirements?

    It is an unprecedented scientific experiment, not the some sort of business logic application coded in Java that you undoubtedly do for a living.

    Yeeesh, cover the requirements indeed.

  • by PhreakOfTime ( 588141 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:56PM (#31018378) Homepage
    I think you misunderstand how larger government woks projects are run, and why. Physics is only an ancillary benefit.
  • Re:Half-measures (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:00PM (#31018402)

    Maybe you get a Schrodinger's black hole - it may or may not be there until you open the lid.

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:10PM (#31018452)

    The interconnects are rather complex superconducting devices, not simple electronic connections. It certainly would have been possible to design them with a higher safety factor, but that would have increased the cost. If that approach had been taken with all of the critical components for the machine, the overall cost would have been significantly higher. Unfortunately for a large cutting edge project on a tight budget, you need to take some technical risks. Over the next 10 years we will see if they put a reasonable safety factor on the overall design.

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:21PM (#31018518) Homepage

    Maybe they can claim that it has to do something with global warming and the giant sound of sucking machines, and micro-black holes will start getting the money for them.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:44PM (#31018624)

    It certainly would have been possible to design them with a higher safety factor, but that would have increased the cost...Unfortunately for a large cutting edge project on a tight budget, you need to take some technical risks.

    I seem to have heard this argument before.

    The Apollo fire. The loss of the Challenger. Repairs to the Hubble.

  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:45PM (#31018632)
    Frankly, I'm a little sick of the "outrage" every time something doesn't go as planned. Since when does the universe have to play nice all the time?

    Science, by its very nature, deals with the unknown. We're at the point now where it looks like we're going to have to assemble thousands of experts, using billions of dollars to continue to make fundamental discoveries. If any of us had a road map, I assure you that we'd use it. This means that sometimes, we spend all that time and energy and hit a dead end.

    But here's the cool part: dead ends are sometimes better than confirming what we already knew. There was an interview with a theoretical physicist on the radio the other day, and the interviewer asked him what his worst fear and greatest hope for the LHC was. He said, "They're the same thing. We find out that we were completely wrong about something." This is simultaneously frightening and exhilarating, and it's what makes fundamental research so exciting.
  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:50PM (#31018662)

    If the LHC was designed properly, run the friggin' thing. If not, fix the friggin' thing.

    Did you RTFA? That's exactly what they're doing. It takes time to come up with a proper fix, but while you're coming up with something, why not use the thing? Even at a fraction of its energy, the LHC is the most advanced accelerator in the world. It would be a shame to just let it sit there.

  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @12:33AM (#31018894) Journal

    Hard to get all worked up about this when the people running the program don't seem to be concerned about accomplishing anything significant. Sort of like spending untold billions on a supersonic aircraft, and after all the money is spent, flying it subsonic for a year or so, and then grounding it for another year to re-wire it.

    Well, no. It sounds like they're quite concerned about doing something useful after spending those billions of euros. They still have the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth by a good margin, even if it's not up to its full design power (yet). They can do some solid science, good experiments, collect a year's worth of data and test all of their detectors and other hardware.

    After that, they'll have a year with the beam turned off, in which they can actually analyze the mountains of data that were generated during a year of experimental runs. In addition to replacing the magnet interconnects, experimenters will have a year to fix any problems that come to light with detectors and other experiment hardware and software. This period of operation means that there shouldn't be any unpleasasnt surprises when they do go to full power, because they'll have had a year of 7 TeV operation to shake out all the bugs.

  • by strangelovian ( 1559111 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @12:47AM (#31018974) Homepage
    Fellow Slashdotters, I hope is becoming abundantly clear by now that an age is ending; the great 20th century scientific projects are fading into history, and the 21st century will require us to dramatically lower our expectations for scientific civilization. What exactly is the payoff for the LHC anyway? In what way does it inspire society at large or contribute anything useful? It’s very strange to be living through the collapse of your own civilization, but with each passing day it becomes more and more clear to me that that’s what is happening. It looks to me like our resources are going to be funneled increasingly toward the military as we struggle to maintain what we already have, instead of pursuing inspirational projects that ordinary people can understand. A sad time to be alive for those of us who grew up with bigger dreams, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @12:53AM (#31019008)

    Personally, I see the whole "physics is the ultimate science" as a con to graft in more grad students.

    The world is not a nasty, nasty, vile thing that's out to get you. Take a deep breath. Sometimes, really, people mean what they say. Sometimes they act in earnest. Sometimes there is no ulterior motive.

    Is it so difficult to let go of your cynicism for five minutes?

  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:41AM (#31019224) Homepage

    The failures, or rather misdesigns/misbuilds, are in "copper bus bars". These effectively act as shorts across the superconducting electromagnet coils. Since the coils are normally superconducting (when at cryogenic temperatures), the short does nothing. But if the coil gets ever so slightly above its critical temperature, it ceases to be superconducting. At that point, it still has very very low resistance, but the current through it is so enormous that it heats up rapidly. When it gets to a certain temperature, its resistance becomes comparable to the resistance of the copper bus bar shorting it, and the current starts to flow more and more through the copper, thus protecting the superconductor from getting too much hotter. At least, that's what is supposed to happen.

    What is wrong is that some of the solder joints for the bus bars are not good, and have too high of a resistance. A higher resistance in the bus bar system means a higher superconductor temperature before the current starts to flow through the copper, and in the end, this means damage to magnets.

    I'm not sure what level of testing was done, but building a short segment and testing it up to slightly above design spec is probably not really feasible. In order to get the particles to the eventual energies, you need the whole ring to be in working order, because it takes tons of complete circles around the ring to accelerate the particles. Injection from the SPS to the LHC occurs at 1/14th the design beam energy, and the LHC ring takes it up from there.

    Even if you could inject 7 TeV protons into a short segment of the ring, you'd still not be able to get the design beam intensity that way, because you don't have all 2000+ bunches ready for injection at once.

    You could run the magnet intensities up to what is needed to bend a beam in a tight enough circle at high enough energies even without any actual beam in there, and this was probably done. However, quenches (magnets getting above critical temp) happen principally because of the beam. The beam loses particles and energy at a fairly high rate due to a variety of effects, and all those particles and all that energy goes into heating something, usually the bending magnets. I suppose you could do a deliberate quench by playing with the cryo, though. Perhaps that was done, and we were unfortunate enough to have tested only good subsystems this way.

    As you may have guessed, I am a particle physicist (on CDF), but not a beams engineer. So, some of the above is guesswork, but I hope I've been able to relieve some of your ignorance.

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:03AM (#31019322)

    In a way the LHC may be the last project of the grand old empire. It may be scaled down from the SSC, but it is still by many measures the largest and most complex machine ever created - designed to understand the most basic physics. 30 years ago you wouldn't have needed to ask what it was for, any more than you would have wondered why were were spending money to go to the moon, or to send spacecraft to Jupiter and Saturn.

    With the end of the cold war we no longer feel the need to prove our superiority by building ever bigger and more impressive projects. This has left us without a clear goal.

    Future generations will draw an arbitrary line and say "this is when the civilization fell".

  • by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:08AM (#31020064)
    If you are from then US you are paying for it. The US has provided the LHC with a substantial mount of funding.

    Having said that, its a >20km super fluid helium (about 1.4K IIRC) superconducting collider with voltage and magnetic fields at the very limit of what we are capable of. The miss management part of the project was miss managing expectations. There is no way we should expect this to run as a typical engineering project with only one or two delays and cost over runs (typical in most large engineering projects).

    To give you an idea of just how far from typical engineering this is, take super fluid helium as an example. It can leak fast out of holes not much bigger than an atom. Also in the super fluid phase the thermal conductivity is insane, but one little spot thats just hot enough to get a small area just above the critical temperature (~2K) then... that area is effective thermal insulator compared to the super fluid and then you can't keep your magnets cold cus you cant get rid of parasitic thermal loads quick enough. Now lets make a connector for this stuff, and put a 10kA cable inside... We need 10 000 of em.

    We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

    Ok well mainly because its bloody interesting.
  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @07:04AM (#31020546) Journal

    You must be an American.
    Something is broken / wrong / not flawless, maybe we should sue them!

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @07:11AM (#31020578) Journal

    Just to add some perspective on the US cost, note that the US contribution is about $500 million [newsweek.com] - also remember the LHC has been constructed over about a 15 year period I believe, so on average that's a yearly cost of $33 million. For comparison, the US yearly military budget is over half a trillion dollars.

    Alternatively, based on estimates of the cost of the Iraq War [wikipedia.org], of $2-3 billion a week, the entire worldwide cost of the LHC over 15 years is about 3-4 weeks in Iraq...

  • by Mattskimo ( 1452429 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @09:27AM (#31021318)
    You remind me of the kid at school who would ask what relevance every single thing they were being taught would have in a work place.

    I think it reasonable to expect taxpayers to get something back from it

    You mean like the computer you wrote your post on? The medicine that has roughly doubled life expectancy in the developed world in the past few hundred years or so? What you seem to be advocating is akin to the recent UK government plans to assess potential economic benefits of research before granting funding which has met with considerable opposition [independent.co.uk]. Private enterprise is certainly well-equipped enough to make a profit for the economy by applying the findings of fundamental research. Take the iPod for example. This needed research into materials, solid state physics, batteries etc, much of which would have been done at a government subsidised university/insitution. Private enterprise stands on the shoulders of giants and provides the economic benefit that easily justifies subsidising pure research.

    "There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness."

    -George Washington (address to Congress, 8 January, 1790)

  • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:10AM (#31021746) Homepage

    Are you serious? None of those more useful things you listed would be here without, say, nuclear physics. Scanning microscopes, NMRI, VLSI... heh.

  • Re:Europe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by not-my-real-name ( 193518 ) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @10:33AM (#31022020) Homepage

    Um, Europe does consist of many nations.

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @12:25PM (#31023430)

    You mean more, or less than shutting down the whole project, redesigning the interconnects, and taking a whole year to replace them?

  • by timothy ( 36799 ) * Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:34PM (#31025088) Journal

    While it's a shame that all the money put in so far hasn't quite led to the promised results, it doesn't matter. It's sciency, and it's worth it at any price.


I've got a bad feeling about this.