Large Hadron Collider scuttled by birdy baguette-bomber
Bread on the busbars could have seen 'dump caverns' used
Exclusive A bird dropping a piece of bread onto outdoor machinery has been blamed for a technical fault at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) this week which saw significant overheating in sections of the mighty particle-punisher's subterranean 27-km supercooled magnetic doughnut.
According to scientists at the project, had the LHC been operational - it is scheduled to recommence beaming later this month - the snag would have caused it to fail safe and shut down automatically. This would put the mighty machine out of action for a few days while it was restarted, but there would be no repeat of the catastrophic damage suffered last September. On that occasion, an electrical connection in the circuit itself failed violently, causing a massive liquid-helium leak and knock-on damage along hundreds of metres of magnets.
Reg readers alerted us yesterday to the temperature rises in the LHC's Sector 81, which began in the early hours of Tuesday morning: most of the collider's operational data can be viewed on the web for all to see. Initial enquiries to CERN press staff led to assurances that the rises were the result of routine tests.
However Dr Mike Lamont, who works at the CERN control centre and describes himself as "LHC Machine Coordinator and General Dogsbody" later confirmed that there had indeed been a problem. Lamont, briefing reporters at the control room yesterday, told the Reg that machinery on the surface - the LHC accelerator circuit itself is buried deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border outside Geneva - had suffered a fault caused by "a bit of baguette on the busbars", thought perhaps to have been dropped by a bird.
As a result, temperatures in part of the LHC's circuit climbed to almost 8 Kelvin - significantly higher than the normal operating temperature of 1.9, and close to the temperature at which the LHC's niobium-titanium magnets are likely to "quench", or cease superconducting and become ordinary "warm" magnets - by no means up to the task imposed on them. Dr Tadeusz Kurtyka, a CERN engineer, told the Reg that this can happen unpredictably at temperatures above 9.6 K.
An uncontrolled quench would be bad news with the LHC in operation, possibly leading to serious damage of the sort which crippled the machine last September. At the moment there are no beams of hadrons barrelling around the huge magnetic doughnut at close to light speed, but when there are, each of the two beams has as much energy in it as an aircraft carrier underway. If the LHC suddenly lost its ability to keep the beam circling around its vacuum pipe, all that energy would have to go somewhere - with results on the same scale as being rammed by an aircraft carrier.
The birds are actually getting in some practice sessions for when they get chance to drop the bread down the ventilation shaft and onto the LHC core.
Bugger that - shoot the beam into space!
Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!
Is the LHC Going to Test the Inflationary Theory of Many Universes?
As reported by Kathy A. Svitil (DISCOVER Magazine, March 2002), the LHC in Geneva may turn out to be a "black hole factory". Steven Giddings (University of California) and Scott Thomas (Stanford) came up with this theory, but, according to Svitil, Giddings is not worried, since "the black holes evaporate" (by the S. Hawking's process of particle pair creation) "and the ones we might make should disappear rapidly," in 10 exp. -27 seconds. Of course, such black miniholes would not be dangerous, since their energy content doesn't increase, but what if a patch of the false vacuum of the inflationary theory of many universes would be created? A "pocket universe" would be formed, and its energy content would increase greatly by the process of inflation. According to Alan H. Guth, one of the principal authors of the inflationary theory ("The Inflationary Universe," Perseus, Reading, MA, 1997, pp. 254-269), "...a patch of false vacuum 10 exp. -26 cm across is all the recipe demands", with the mass of 10 exp. -32 solar masses or "about 25 grams, or roughly one ounce!" Withe the density of 10 exp. 80 g/cubic cm, "the time that it takes for the child universe to disconnect is 10 exp. -37 seconds." The remaining black hole would evaporate "in roughly 10 exp. -23 seconds, releasing the energy equivalent of a 500 kiloton nuclear explosion" -- or 17 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb in 1945. Of course, the energy of the accelerated protons, with positive charges, may be too low to form the false vacuum 10 exp. -26 cm across, and the evaporation time of the black holes to be produced, as calculated by Giddings, is faster (!0 exp. -27 sec.), but has anyone calculated the minimum energy needed to form a patch of the false vacuum? In summary, the LHC experiments may be a test for the veracity of the inflationary theory. At any rate, this is the first time in about 460 years of history when the LHC experiments will resemble the transmutation of elements (gold to iron, by means of RAYON POSITIF, followed by a disaster) predicted by Nostradamus in Geneva, in exactly in the same location ("Les Propheties...", Rosne, Lyon, 1557, verse IX-44)!