LHC Black Hole Machine on Hold

Dennis Faas's picture

The Large Hadron Collider, the machine tipped to revolutionize our understanding of physics, could be out of action for the rest of the year. Scientists had planned to use the machine to create a near light-speed collision between particles so they could answer fundamental questions like "what makes up black holes?" and "why is gravity so weak compared with other forces?"

However, after an earlier delay with a power failure, the project is on hold thanks to a suspected melted electrical connection between two of the giant magnets which steer the protons (a type of particle) in the experiment. The resulting mechanical failure caused a leak of the helium used to cool the magnets. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

It's a particular problem as the relevant section of the LHC operated at -271 degrees Celsius; engineers will have to heat up the section considerably before they can carry out repairs, then cool it down again.

Spokesman James Gillies said "It's a very complicated machine [and] we've always known that there's the possibility of this sort of incident in the start-up phase." (Source: reuters.com)

Officials are remaining optimistic, pointing out that the delay isn't that significant given that the construction of the project took around 20 years. They add that there have been plenty of similar glitches during the LHC scheme's history, but that they didn't receive as much media coverage.

That's largely down to fears that the unprecedented experiment could have dangerous outcomes, including creating a black hole which could swallow up the planet. Scientists worldwide have dismissed such fears as misguided and ill-informed, while world wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee has said he's concerned websites spreading such rumors undermine the entire Internet.

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