Big Bang machine hit with another delay

Newly found vacuum leaks will keep Large Hadron Collider offline until November

Trouble and delays continue to plague the enormous machine that scientists hope will help them figure out how the universe was created.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, announced earlier this week that while engineers are continuing to repair known problems and add safety features to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), its re-launch date has been extended by three months until November due to the discovery of new leaks in its vacuum tube.

The Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle collider, was built to shoot two particle beams around a 17-mile underground, vacuum-sealed tube in opposite directions on a collision course. Smashing the beams together will create showers of new particles that CERN hopes will recreate the conditions in the universe just moments after its conception. The goal is to provide scientists with data that can be used to answer one of humanity's oldest questions: How was the universe created?

The collider has been plagued with troubles since its initial test runs last fall.

In late September, CERN disclosed that a faulty electrical connection had knocked the Large Hadron Collider offline for two months. Then, just a few days later, the organization noted that the collider would remain down until this spring.

At that point, James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN, told Computerworld that it would cost $21 million or more to get the LHC operational again. It's not clear whether that estimate has changed, given that work is now expected to continue until November.

The collider, which has been called "one of the great engineering milestones of mankind," was built to explore the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory holds that more than 13 billion years ago, an amazingly dense object the size of a coin expanded into the universe that we know now.

Controversy has swirled around the collider and the experiments being done there. Critics have said that smashing particle beams together in the collider could cause a cataclysmic reaction similar to the big bang, which would vaporize the Earth or suck it into a black hole that would shoot it out into an alternate universe.

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