Katherine Bourzac

A View from Katherine Bourzac

What Happened at the Large Hadron Collider

A report details why the particle accelerator was temporarily shut down.

  • October 17, 2008

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.)

Credit: CERN

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.

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from undefined

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.