PHYSICS

Large Hadron Collider restart delayed by glitch

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 March, 2015, 8:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 10:56am

Scientists at Europe's CERN research centre have had to postpone the imminent relaunch of their refitted Big Bang machine, the Large Hadron Collider, because of a short-circuit in the wiring of one of the vital magnets.

"Current indications suggest a delay of between a few days and several weeks," the world's leading particle physics research centre said.

Engineers had been expected to start on Wednesday pumping proton beams in opposite directions all the way round the two 27km underground tubes in the LHC, closed down for the past two years for a refit.

That would have been the prelude to the start of particle collisions in late May at twice the power of those in the LHC's first run from 2010-2013.

The smashing together of particles inside the LHC is designed to mimic conditions just after the Big Bang at the dawn of the universe. In a breakthrough in 2012, CERN scientists announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle, a basic building block of the universe, which appeared to be the boson imagined and named half a century earlier by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.

Hopes for the second run lie in breaking out of the 'Standard Model' of how the universe works at the level of elementary particles, and into 'New Physics'.

That includes searching for the dark matter that makes up about 96 per cent of the stuff of the universe but can only be detected by its influence on visible matter around it.

The research centre's director general, Rolf Heuer, played down the delay. "All the signs are good for a great second run," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks delay in humankind's quest to understand our universe is little more than the blink of an eye."