August 6, 2009

LHC: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

From today's press release:

"CERN'S Large Hadron Collider will initially run at an energy of 3.5 TeV per beam when it starts up in November this year. This news comes after all tests on the machine’s high-current electrical connections were completed last week, indicating that no further repairs are necessary for safe running. “ We've selected 3.5 TeV to start,” said CERN's Director General, Rolf Heuer, “because it allows the LHC operators to gain experience of running the machine safely while opening up a new discovery region for the experiments."

After a year hiatus, during which up to 10,000 high-current superconducting electrical connections and their corresponding copper stabilizers were tested and malfunctioning units repaired, the LHC is ready to run--but at a speed too sluggish, at first, anyway, for the potential of substantial discovery. If all goes well, once the operations beam has gained experience running at 3.5 and 5 TeV per beam, near the end of the year lead ions will be introduced and massive amounts of data collected. Then the accelerator will be shut down again, and "work will begin on moving the machine towards 7 TeV per beam." Optimally, the real fun will begin in early 2011, when particle-smashing at 7 TeV reaches primordial proportions.

Heuer continues, “The LHC is a much better understood machine than it was a year ago. We can look forward with confidence and excitement to a good run through the winter and into next year.”

Patience is a virtue.

ps: Aesop lends itself to infinite cliche (see today's title) but his collection of fables, along with Hans Christian Anderson's gloriously wicked stories, were a mainstay of my very early reading-- and likely yours. Here, then, is a fable come to life. Astounding how cleverness reveals itself in smaller creatures--even the bird-brained ones!--when given a chance.

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