Large Hadron Collider Fizzles, Adding to the Mysteries of Life - NYTimes.com
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.
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.
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