Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Credit: CERN

Physicists and science enthusiasts were excited last month when the Large Hadron Collider, the most ambitious particle accelerator ever built, went online. Nine days later, the accelerator was shut down because of a helium leak. (The superconducting magnets that steer particles on their 27-kilometer collision course are cooled with large volumes of liquid helium.)

Yesterday, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, released a report detailing what went wrong. Steven Nahn, an MIT physics professor currently working from CERN, says that the analysis took some time because the area had to be warmed up from near absolute zero before it could be accessed for investigation. The problem, the report concludes, arose because of a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which led to mechanical problems.

“The fact that this happened surprised no one in this business,” says Nahn. “You’re just starting up a machine that’s taken you 20 years to build, you’re gonna run into some problems–you can’t possibly foresee everything.” Over the next several years, Nahn and his thousands of collaborators hope to use the accelerator to solve long-standing physics problems, such as why fundamental particles have mass.

The collider is slated to go online again in early 2009.

2 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Communications, magnets, physics, electrons, LHC, particle accelerator, protons, liquid helium, particle detector

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me