David Kirkpatrick

February 28, 2010

Large Hadron Collider back in operation

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:30 pm

The first beams of 2010 circled the LHC earlier today.

Now, here comes the science …

December 1, 2009

Large Hadron Collider ramping up

And has already set the energy record for particle accelerators.

From the link:

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has today become the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV in the early hours of the morning. This exceeds the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider since 2001. It marks another important milestone on the road to first physics at the LHC in 2010.

October 9, 2009

CERN, LHC hit new PR speedbump

This announcement doesn’t seem to have any relevance of the science going on at CERN or the Large Hadron Collider, and sounds like one scientist’s life took a change in a bad direction. Of course the LHC doesn’t need any additional bad news.

From the link:

The French authorities have arrested a physicist who worked for years at CERN, the huge nuclear research center in Switzerland, on suspicion of links to Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, the center said Friday.

James Gillies, a CERN spokesman, said the physicist was still registered as a member of the research team but had not been seen for some time. In a statement, the center said that he was arrested Thursday and had worked as an analyst on projects involving itsLarge Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, since 2003, but that he was not an employee and his project would not have been of any use to terrorists.

“His work did not bring him into contact with anything that could be used for terrorism,” said the statement from the center, whose formal name is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. “None of our research has potential for military application, and all our results are published openly in the public domain.”

A person with knowledge of the investigation said that the physicist was arrested along with a younger brother, but that the physicist was the focus of the investigation. Both are French citizens of Algerian origin.

August 6, 2009

Large Hadron Collider to initially run at lower power

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:24 pm

As an update to this post, here’s the latest news out of CERN regarding the troubled LHC:

LHC to run at 3.5 TeV for early part of 2009-2010 run rising later

Geneva, 6 August 2009. CERN’s1 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.”

Following the incident of 19 September 2008 that brought the LHC to a standstill, testing has focused on the 10,000 high-current superconducting electrical connections like the one that led to the fault. These consist of two parts: the superconductor itself, and a copper stabilizer that carries the current in case the superconductor warms up and stops superconducting, a so-called quench. In their normal superconducting state, there is negligible electrical resistance across these connections, but in a small number of cases abnormally high resistances have been found in the superconductor. These have been repaired. However, there remain a number of cases where the resistance in the copper stabilizer connections is higher than it should be for running at full energy.

The latest tests looked at the resistance of the copper stabilizer. Many copper connections showing anomalously high resistance have been repaired already, and the tests on the final two sectors, which concluded last week, have revealed no more outliers. This means that no more repairs are necessary for safe running this year and next.

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

The procedure for the 2009 start-up will be to inject and capture beams in each direction, take collision data for a few shifts at the injection energy, and then commission the ramp to higher energy. The first high-energy data should be collected a few weeks after the first beam of 2009 is injected. The LHC will run at 3.5 TeV per beam until a significant data sample has been collected and the operations team has gained experience in running the machine. Thereafter, with the benefit of that experience, the energy will be taken towards 5 TeV per beam. At the end of 2010, the LHC will be run with lead ions for the first time. After that, the LHC will shut down and work will begin on moving the machine towards 7 TeV per beam.

CERN is publishing regular updates on the LHC in its internal Bulletin, available at cern.ch/bulletin, as well as via twitter and YouTube at twitter.com/cern and youtube.com/cern1. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

You can find the rest of my posts on the Large Hadron Collider here.

August 3, 2009

Large Hadron Collider facing more problems

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:22 pm

This New York Times article on the Large Hadron Collider is disturbing for anyone who’s been looking forward to major scientific advancement coming out of Geneva anytime soon. I’ve done plenty of blogging on the LHC and was looking forward to it finally being up and running after the initial misfire. Looks like major problems are going to be a part of this project for a while to come.

From the first link:

The biggest, most expensive physics machine in the world is riddled with thousands of bad electrical connections.

Many of the magnets meant to whiz high-energy subatomic particles around a 17-mile underground racetrack have mysteriously lost their ability to operate at high energies.

Some physicists are deserting the European project, at least temporarily, to work at a smaller, rival machine across the ocean.

After 15 years and $9 billion, and a showy “switch-on” ceremony last September, the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator outside Geneva, has to yet collide any particles at all.

But soon?

This week, scientists and engineers at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, are to announce how and when their machine will start running this winter.

That will be a Champagne moment. But scientists say it could be years, if ever, before the collider runs at full strength, stretching out the time it should take to achieve the collider’s main goals, like producing a particle known as the Higgs boson thought to be responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass, or identifying the dark matter that astronomers say makes up 25 percent of the cosmos.

The energy shortfall could also limit the collider’s ability to test more exotic ideas, like the existence of extra dimensions beyond the three of space and one of time that characterize life.

“The fact is, it’s likely to take a while to get the results we really want,” said Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist who is an architect of the extra-dimension theory.

September 30, 2008

Bose supernova threat from Large Hadron Collider

Okay, this is a total new one to me. Don’t have any idea about the credibility here, but I’ve done a lot of blogging on the Large Hadron Collider and scoffing at the fearmongers out there. I probably ought to give this idea a little more light

From KurzweilAI.net —

Forget black holes, could the LHC trigger a “Bose supernova”?
the physics arXiv blog, Sep. 29, 2008

Could the 700,000 liters of superfluid helium bathed in the powerful
magnetic fields of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) result in a major explosion by behaving as a supercold Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC), which have been found to explode when subjected to magnetic fields, resulting in a “Bose supernova”?

Read Original Article>>

September 29, 2008

I’m sure CERN is resting easier tonight …

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:29 pm

… now that the Hawaii lawsuit attempting to stop the Large Hadron Collider’s startup got tossed.

From the link:

U.S. District Judge Helen Gilmor says in a ruling issued Friday that federal courts don’t have jurisdiction over the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, near Geneva.

Two Hawaii residents sued because they feared the machine could create black holes or other phenomena that could destroy the planet.

September 27, 2008

Large Hadron Collider’s opening ceremony still on as planned

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:38 pm

Even though the device is mothballed for a spell.

From the link:

There’s just one problem — the experiment itself will be out of action for almost eight months, after a faulty electrical connection caused a massive helium leak.

Nevertheless, the head of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said Friday that the inauguration ceremony will go ahead as planned on October 21.

Heads of state from CERN’s 20 members have been invited but the laboratory does not yet know who will be present in Geneva for the ceremony.

The giant experiment called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) took nearly 20 years to complete and cost six billion Swiss francs (3.76 billion euros, 5.46 billion dollars) to build in a tunnel complex under the Franco-Swiss border.

September 21, 2008

Large Hadron Collider down for two months

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:14 pm

I opted against blogging on the LHC’s electrical problem this week because any colossally complex piece of machinery is going to have some birthing pains at the outset.

This issue, however routine, is a little bigger deal. The LHC is mothballed for two months of repair following a helium leak. It is nice to blog about LHC problems and not have to deal with the doomsday fools claiming the world’s most sophisticated piece of scientific equipment is going to end life as we know it.

From the PhysOrg link:

“There has been an incident in a test. One section of the machine will have to be repaired,” James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), told AFP.

CERN said in a statement that a fault occurred on Friday afternoon, resulting in a “large helium leak into the tunnel.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the most likely cause of the problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure,” it said.

There was no risk to people, added the centre, saying that a full probe was underway.

“There are people in the tunnel right now, we’ll be giving updates as soon as we can,” said Gillies.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was started on September 10, with physicists cheering the successful testing of a clockwise beam, comprising strings of protons, and then an anticlockwise beam in preparatory testing ahead of first collisions.

But the LHC had to be shut down a week later due to an electrical hitch that affected a cooling systemfor high-powered magnets designed to steer beams of particles around the LHC’s 27-kilometre (16.9-mile) circular tunnel.

The cooling system is important as the steering magnets in the LHC tunnel are chilled to as low as -271 degrees Celsius (-456.25 degrees Fahrenheit), which is close to absolute zero and colder than deep outer space.

At this extreme temperature, electrical currents overcome resistance, thus making it easier and cheaper to power electro-magnets.

You can hit this link for all my LHC blogging.

September 9, 2008

Breaking down the Large Hadron Collider mission profile and factfile

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:47 pm

I’ve blogged quite a  bit about the Large Hadron Collider, most of it centered on covering the facts — not the fear — of what’s going to happen once the first proton hits the accelerator. And speaking of hitting, you can hit this link for all my LHC blogging.

This link covers the more exciting aspects of the LHC. Namely the mission profile for the collider and some general facts about this awesome piece of machinery.

From the link:

World’s biggest atom-smasher: Mission profile

Following is a mission profile of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest atom-smasher, which is due to start operations on Wednesday:

– Hunt for the HIGGS BOSON, a theorised particle that would explain why other particles have mass. Confirming the Higgs would fill a huge gap in the so-called Standard Model, the theory that summarises our present knowledge of particles. Over the years, scientists have whittled down the ranges of mass that the Higgs is likely to have. But they have lacked a machine capable of generating collisions powerful enough to to confirm whether this so-called God particle really does exist.

– Explore SUPERSYMMETRY, the notion that a whole bestiary of related but more massive particles exists beyond those in the Standard Model. Supersymmetry could explain one of the weirdest discoveries of recent years — that visible matter only accounts for some four percent of the cosmos. Dark matter (23 percent) and dark energy (73 percent) account for the rest. A popular theory is that dark matter comprises supersymmetric particles called neutralinos.

– Investigate the mystery of MATTER AND ANTI-MATTER. When energy transforms into matter, it produces a particle and its mirror image — called an anti-particle — which holds the opposite electrical charge. When particles and anti-particles collide, they annihilate each other in a small flash of energy. According to conventional theories of the cosmos, matter and anti-matter should exist in equal amounts, but the puzzle is that anti-matter is rare.

– Replicate the earliest moments after the BIG BANG that created the Universe. At its primal stage, matter existed as a sort of hot, dense soup called quark-gluon plasma. As it cooled, sub-atomic particles called quarks clumped together to form protons and neutrons and other composite particles. The LHC will smash heavy ions together, briefly generating temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun and freeing quarks from their confinent. The researchers can then see how the liberated quarks aggregate to form ordinary matter.

September 7, 2008

Large Hadron Collider fears are unfounded

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:14 pm

I’ve blogged about this exact issue before and you can hit this link for all my LHC blogging.

The presss release:

LHC switch-on fears are completely unfounded

A new report published on Friday, 5 September, provides the most comprehensive evidence available to confirm that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)’s switch-on, due on Wednesday next week, poses no threat to mankind. Nature’s own cosmic rays regularly produce more powerful particle collisions than those planned within the LHC, which will enable nature’s laws to be studied in controlled experiments.

The LHC Safety Assessment Group have reviewed and updated a study first completed in 2003, which dispels fears of universe-gobbling black holes and of other possibly dangerous new forms of matter, and confirms that the switch-on will be completely safe.

The report, ‘Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions’, published in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, proves that if particle collisions at the LHC had the power to destroy the Earth, we would never have been given the chance to exist, because regular interactions with more energetic cosmic rays would already have destroyed the Earth or other astronomical bodies.

The Safety Assessment Group writes, “Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth – and the planet still exists.”

The Safety Assessment Group compares the rates of cosmic rays that bombard Earth, other planets in our solar system, the Sun and all the other stars in our universe itself to show that hypothetical black holes or strangelets, that have raised fears in some, will in fact pose no threat.

The report also concludes that, since cosmic-ray collisions are more energetic than those in the LHC, but are incapable of producing vacuum bubbles or dangerous magnetic monopoles, we should not fear their creation by the LHC.

LHC collisions will differ from cosmic-ray collisions in that any exotic particles created will have lower velocities, but the Safety Assessment Group shows that even fast-moving black holes produced by cosmic rays would have stopped inside the Earth or other astronomical bodies. Their existence proves that any such black holes could not gobble matter at a risky rate.

As the Safety Assessment Group writes, “Each collision of a pair of protons in the LHC will release an amount of energy comparable to that of two colliding mosquitoes, so any black hole produced would be much smaller than those known to astrophysicists.” They conclude that such microscopic black holes could not grow dangerously.

As for the equally hypothetical strangelets, the review uses recent experimental measurements at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider, New York, to prove that they will not be produced during collisions in the LHC.



August 27, 2008

First particles already observed in Large Hadron Collider

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:26 pm

Exciting news!

From the PhysOrg link:

The LHC, based at the European particle facility CERN near Geneva, is due to fully switch on its proton beams on 10 September but the LHC’s particle detectors have been recording hits from cosmic rays for several months and at 5pm on Friday 22 August 2008 LHCb*, one of the four LHC experiments, reconstructed in its Vertex Locator (VELO) the first particles from the LHC. It is the first time particle tracks have been reconstructed from a man-made event generated by the collider.

For all my LHC blogging hit this link.

August 23, 2008

Fermilab finds single top quark

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:30 pm

In the category of further breaking down the atom, Fermilab announces “seeing” a top quark not coupled to an antiop.

It’s always great news whentheoretical atomic properties are found to exist, but this announcement is a bit funny because there’s a strong undercurrent of, let’s say, friendly competition with CERN and the soon-to-be-turned-on Large Hadron Collider for the media’s attention.

This can readily be seen in the intro to the linked article (emphasis mine):

Scientists at the world’s largest fully operating particle accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, have discovered convincing evidence suggesting the existence of top quarks that are not coupled to their antiparticle, the antitop. These “single” top quarks have been hunted since Fermilab scientists first discovered top-antitop pairs in 1995.

Luckily the Tevatron has a few more years of no real competition in terms of grand announcements since LHC isn’t expected to begin kicking out confirmed results for around that period of time

Enough of Fermilab/CERN comparisons. Here’s the science from the piece:

Fermilab physicists hope that the techniques they used to find the single top quark could help them in their search for the proposed Higgs boson, a particle that exists so far only in theory but if actually found would have a huge impact on physics. The Higgs is expected to reveal such basic information as why nature assigned certain masses to certain particles—the origin of mass, essentially.

The results are the product of a long period of analysis by Fermilab’s D0 (“D-Zero”) collaboration, an international group of physicists from 90 institutions. The group studies data from particle collisions that occur within the D0 particle detector; in this case, data generated by collisions between a beam of protons and a beam of antiprotons. D0 is a building-sized cylindrical device that surrounds the collision site, measuring and recording the energies and trajectories of the many, many particles produced when the beams are smashed together.

August 7, 2008

CERN announces Large Hadron Collider startup date

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:37 pm

I’ve blogged about the Large Hadron Collider before, and there’s some exciting news out of Geneva today. The LHC goes live September 10.

Here’s a link to a PhysOrg.com article, and here’s a link to the CERN press release.

The release:

CERN announces start-up date for LHC

Geneva, 7 August 2008. CERN1has today announced that the first attempt to circulate a beam in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be made on 10 September. This news comes as the cool down phase of commissioning CERN’s new particle accelerator reaches a successful conclusion. Television coverage of the start-up will be made available through Eurovision.

The LHC is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, producing beams seven times more energetic than any previous machine, and around 30 times more intense when it reaches design performance, probably by 2010. Housed in a 27-kilometre tunnel, it relies on technologies that would not have been possible 30 years ago. The LHC is, in a sense, its own prototype.

Starting up such a machine is not as simple as flipping a switch. Commissioning is a long process that starts with the cooling down of each of the machine’s eight sectors. This is followed by the electrical testing of the 1600 superconducting magnets and their individual powering to nominal operating current. These steps are followed by the powering together of all the circuits of each sector, and then of the eight independent sectors in unison in order to operate as a single machine.

By the end of July, this work was approaching completion, with all eight sectors at their operating temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero (-271°C). The next phase in the process is synchronization of the LHC with the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) accelerator, which forms the last link in the LHC’s injector chain. Timing between the two machines has to be accurate to within a fraction of a nanosecond. A first synchronization test is scheduled for the weekend of 9 August, for the clockwise-circulating LHC beam, with the second to follow over the coming weeks. Tests will continue into September to ensure that the entire machine is ready to accelerate and collide beams at an energy of 5 TeV per beam, the target energy for 2008. Force majeure notwithstanding, the LHC will see its first circulating beam on 10 September at the injection energy of 450 GeV (0.45 TeV).

Once stable circulating beams have been established, they will be brought into collision, and the final step will be to commission the LHC’s acceleration system to boost the energy to 5 TeV, taking particle physics research to a new frontier.

‘We’re finishing a marathon with a sprint,’said LHC project leader Lyn Evans. ‘It’s been a long haul, and we’re all eager to get the LHC research programme underway.’

CERN will be issuing regular status updates between now and first collisions. Journalists wishing to attend CERN for the first beam on 10 September must be accredited with the CERN press office. Since capacity is limited, priority will be given to news media. The event will be webcast through http://webcast.cern.ch, and distributed through the Eurovision network. Live stand up and playout facilities will also be available.

A media centre will be established at the main CERN site, with access to the control centres for the accelerator and experiments limited and allocated on a first come first served basis. This includes camera positions at the CERN Control Centre, from where the LHC is run. Only television media will be able to access the CERN Control Centre. No underground access will be possible.

For further information and accreditation procedures: http://www.cern.ch/lhc-first-beam

1CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

For all my LHC blogging hit this link.

April 15, 2008

Large Hadron Collider — a realistic risk assessment

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:23 pm

There’s been plenty written on the subject of Cern’s Large Hadron Collider and the potential for ending life as we know it via a tiny black hole or stranglets. The whole concept has received a lot more publicity after a lawsuit was filed to stop Cern from flipping the “on” switch.

The linked NYT’s article does about as good of job as I’ve read covering the realities of the issue at hand. The overall verdict? Sure it’s not entirely risk-free, but nothing truly is so move along folks. All will be fine. I’ve read a lot on this by some qualified scientific minds. There’s pretty much universal agreement the risk is more than acceptable. I’ll defer to the experts here and discount the cassandra-ish laymen.

From the link:

That question has been raised by the impending startup of the Large Hadron Collider. It starts smashing protons together this summer at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or Cern, outside Geneva, in hopes of grabbing a piece of the primordial fire, forces and particles that may have existed a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Critics have contended that the machine could produce a black hole that could eat the Earth or something equally catastrophic.

To most physicists, this fear is more science fiction than science fact. At a recent open house weekend, 73,000 visitors, without pitchforks or torches, toured the collider without incident.

Nevertheless, some experts say too much hype and not enough candor on the part of scientists about the promises and perils of what they do could boomerang into a public relations disaster for science, opening the door for charlatans and demagogues.

For all my LHC blogging hit this link.