The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the mega-physics experiment in Switzerland where atomic particles will be smashed into each other, has been shut down. The BBC reports that a fault opened up in one of the underground tunnels this morning, releasing one ton of liquid helium into the tunnels. This in turn caused 100 supercooled magnets crucial to LHC experiments to heat up and fail (the liquid helium is what keeps the magnets cool). After the successful first startup of the LHC last week, does this mean it could be months or years before another beam gets shot through the vast underground structure? Things do not look good. Not only was the fire brigade called in to deal with the situation, but vacuum was lost as well as liquid helium. Here's what the BBC had to say:
The superconducting magnets in the LHC must be supercooled to 1.9C above absolute zero, to allow them to steer particle beams around the circuit. As a result of the [leak], the temperature of about one hundred of the magnets in the machine's final sector rose by around 100C. A spokesman for Cern confirmed that it would now be difficult, if not impossible, to stage the first trial collisions next week. Further delays could follow once the damage has been fully assessed over the weekend.
Hopefully this will only be a minor setback, but we'll have to see what the LHC researchers say on Monday. Hadron Collider Forced to Halt [via BBC News]