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Photos of the Damage To the Large Hadron Collider 106

Posted by kdawson
from the do-not-try-this-at-home dept.
holy_calamity writes "CERN have released images of the damage done to the world's most powerful machine, the Large Hadron Collider, when an electrical fault caused a helium leak. New Scientist has posted them, along with explanations of what you can see. The sudden burst of gas shifted some of the huge superconducting magnets by half a meter, causing at least $21 million in damage."
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Photos of the Damage To the Large Hadron Collider

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  • by kfort (1132)

    is this story red?

  • Doubts. (Score:5, Funny)

    by philspear (1142299) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:43PM (#26094545)

    I'm conCERNed that this think may never stay functional long enough to destroy the earth.

    On an unrelated note, if there's two things I love, one is pointless, likely redundant puns, and the other is shouting "the sky is falling!"

  • Wanna bet? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'll bet they get it working on 12/12/2012.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ok. Sounds like a good bet to me. If you win, the world is destroyed and I cant' pay you anything because the world is over. If it starts before then and it destroys the earth, I don't get paid cause the world is over. If, however it starts after then, You have to pay me and I can enjoy my remaining days in comfortable style.

      Of course the only was I have to pay is if by some miracle it doesn't destroy the earth, but does start working on that date. So, I just need come up with a back up plan to destroy t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by The Moof (859402)
      I think you mean 12/21/2012 [wikipedia.org].
      • by Yetihehe (971185)
        ahA! There are only 12 months, so this date is impossible! So earth will not be destroyed!
        • by pnutjam (523990)
          american's write the month first, I believe europeans write the month in the middle (incorrectly). ;)
  • by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:44PM (#26094577)
    This is too important to worry about some loose change (in the grand scheme of the LHC) the most important aspect is the lost time.

    The sooner they get back on track (geddit) the better :-)
    • By the same logic, if the science to be discovered at the LHC is so important as to justify any cost, then shouldn't it also be so important as to be worth the wait, however long that may be?

      Or is it right that we should be upset about both delays and over expenditures, even knowing that in the end we will both pay and wait to get what we want?
    • Quote from Photo #3 comment: "Release valves designed to let leaking gas escape could not let it out fast enough to prevent the damage." I hope that money not only goes to repairs but also to beef up the safety net. I'll be really pissed if we destroy our planet over budget concerns.
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:54PM (#26094727)
    Ah, through the "wisdom" of the US Congress, the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider) was killed over a mere $12 Billion cost savings (which was well under construction just south of Dallas, TX). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider [wikipedia.org]
    Some say it was largely due to infighting with 'higher educational interests' back East and in the Chicago area, - but really the answer most likely due to nothing more than Greed and Money.

    TO think that The US Federal Government will give taxpayer money to banks et al to the tune of $2 Trillion with NIL oversight and NIL public disclosure is extremely dangerous and shortsighted. ( http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20670001&refer=home&sid=aXNaCKxb.oIs [bloomberg.com] )

    We (in the US) could have had something MORE POWERFUL than the LHC here in the US. (As I try not to think about the high-energy physicist brain-drain to France/Switzerland)...
    Once upon a time, the US took pride in having the best and coolest toys the world over... (/sigh)
    • by pz (113803) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:13PM (#26095047) Journal

      The worst part about the SSC is mentioned in the parent comment's parenthetical comment about brain drain.

      When the SSC was cancelled, there was a flood of high-energy physicists who were suddenly out of work. The US lost an entire generation of talent in physics. Instead of continuing on with a remarkable collection of centers of excellence, each themselves breeding excellence, and maintain the intellectual, scientific, technical, and economic advantages that the US Government prides itself on, the (pardon me) boneheads in Congress thought it better to continue the long slog toward mediocrity.

      High-energy physics no longer happens in the US (my apologies to readers at LL, LANL, Brookhaven, Fermi, Argonne, Berkeley, and so forth). It happens in Europe and will continue to do so for the forseable future.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541)

        And by an odd coincidence, that['s about when particle physics took a detour into String Theory from which it has yet to recover. Almost nothing of value has happened in the field (especially in the US) since the SSC was canned. But hey, we can toss $30B to bail out the executive bonuses for a bank and not think twice about it (or even once).

        • by ortholattice (175065) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:45PM (#26096433)

          And by an odd coincidence, that['s about when particle physics took a detour into String Theory from which it has yet to recover.

          And by another odd coincidence, other particle physicists took a detour into Wall Street, where they applied their advanced mathematical knowledge to creating exotic derivatives like Credit Default Swaps, but arguably without proper financial training or real-world experience. One is tempted to wonder whether the U.S. might be ahead by $2 trillion - $12 billion = $1.988 trillion had they just gone and financed the SSC instead.

          • by idontgno (624372) on Friday December 12, 2008 @05:40PM (#26097155) Journal

            And by another odd coincidence, other particle physicists took a detour into Wall Street, where they applied their advanced mathematical knowledge to creating exotic derivatives like Credit Default Swaps

            That's the scariest correlation I've heard in a long time.

            <Credit Bank VP>: "'Morning, Erwin, how's the CDO hedge working out? Makin' the firm some megabux?"
            <Ex-physicist>: "Maybe we did, maybe we didn't."

            In the end, the VP opened Erwin Schrödinger's books, collapsed the quantum superposition of mortgage debt obligations, and found that the economy was dead.

          • by khallow (566160)
            Sorry, but that sounds pretty dumb to me. But it does bring up an interesting point about opportunity costs. If we had gone with the SSC, we'd have lost the value of these physicists to Wall Street. Another reason to be leery of Big Science projects.
          • And by another odd coincidence, other particle physicists took a detour into Wall Street, where they

            ... persisted in their urge to create a black hole, be it in space or in the economy.

          • It's not the CDSs that are toxic, it's the CDOs.
        • by jmtpi (17834)

          Almost nothing of value has happened in the field (especially in the US) since the SSC was canned.

          I disagree [stanford.edu]

      • by SBacks (1286786) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:02PM (#26095725)

        the (pardon me) boneheads in Congress

        Well, if you think you can do better, I hear there's an opening for sale in Illinois.

      • Back then, the US needed a bank of high-energy particle physicists for the Star Wars project. SSC was supposed to be the "white" counterpart of the SDI project, encouraging students into the field, and helping to develop the associated industrial infrastructure - SDI coudl then tap into that infrastructure and skills base.

        Once it became apparent that the original SDI project(s) weren't going to happen, part of the strategic justification for priority-funding SSC disappeared.

    • by fishbowl (7759)

      "TO think that The US Federal Government will give taxpayer money to banks et al to the tune of $2 Trillion with NIL oversight and NIL public disclosure is extremely dangerous and shortsighted."

      Well, maybe the people at CERN should have diversified, and invested in a bank, et. al.

    • Particle physicists mourn its loss, especially those of us that really dislike having to go to Geneva every summer (damned French language barrier!!!)

    • by cmdahler (1428601) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:08PM (#26095807)
      I dunno - if I had been in Congress back in 1993 I might have had some doubts about a project that had initially been sold to the government for about $4.5 billion and then ballooned to over three times that amount before the tunnels were even completely dug. There may have been a lot of factors involved in the cancelation of this project, but shutting off a pretty big spigot of wasteful public spending through inept mismanagement and fund milking certainly played a role in Congress' decision. I was living in Dallas at the time and had just graduated a few years before that in physics, so I kept pretty close to all the news stories. The DOE at the time couldn't manage its way out of a wet paper bag, and the wasteful spending and siphoning of funds made the whole thing look like the Big Dig in Boston. To be honest, it's really no wonder Congress canceled the project. At the rate they were going, it would have cost upwards of 20 billion to finish the project, and remember that we were also contributing a huge amount of money to the ISS at the time and had also just come out of a recession, so everyone was real leery about all that money. Wrong time, wrong management, that's ultimately what killed the SSC.
    • by khallow (566160)

      We (in the US) could have had something MORE POWERFUL than the LHC here in the US.

      Science doesn't justify the waste present in the SSC. The bailout has the virtue of keeping the financial system from collapsing. The SSC doesn't deliver 1% of that value.

  • by deft (253558) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:54PM (#26094745) Homepage

    This is actually pretty cool... and I'll tell you why I feel that way.

    If it just worked, I'd be amazed at the results, follow the discoveries. But there's something about it NOT working that reminds me this is the cuttingf edge of the cutting edge. Thi is when the rocket launch explodes on the pad, this is when the systems fail... and it shouts "humanity is working outside its limits, and we're pushing those limits every time we do something like this". I dig it when the REALLY REALLY smart people have issues with something... usually thats very cool stuff.

    I should say when they have trouble with 'technical/physics/electronics' kind of stuff. Not with women. We know they have trouble there already.

    • by prograde (1425683)

      Ok, that's perverse. But I'm on side.

      When spectacular science fails, it does so in a spectacular way!

    • by neoform (551705)

      When the rocket explodes on the pad, it's either cause there was a flaw in it's construction, or there wasn't enough computer simulations.

      The explosion isn't supposed to happen with the powerful computers we have available to us now days.

    • While I won't go so far as to say that the problems with the LHC are cool, I do think it is to be expected. The LHC is a highly complex instrument with countless sub-assemblies and parts. I am sure that every effort was made to model the interaction of all these parts but the truth is that no one knows how it will perform untill it is physically assembled and then put into use. To expect it to work without incident as soon as it is powered up is unrealistic.

      Compare it to the design and construction of a mod

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:54PM (#26094751)
    I preferred the description of the damage that was released a couple of days ago on CNET-

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-10120215-76.html [cnet.com]

    "A resistive zone developed in one of the electrical connections, creating an electrical arc that punctured one of the helium enclosures around a magnet, according to an analysis by CERN. The warming helium expanded in the vacuum enclosure of the central subsector of the pipe, damaging the vacuum barriers separating the central subsector from the neighboring subsectors."

    Geordi La Forge couldn't have said it better.
    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:55PM (#26095633)
      I just don't see why it was so hard for them to prevent something so simple as that. I mean, c'mon, it's not rocket science!
    • by joeytmann (664434)
      Kinda curious as to what the ratio is for mass:volume for liquid helium and vaporized helium? ie if you have one liter of liquid helium if that were to turn to gas what is the volume then? You'd tend to think the'd have come up with that and figured out how much pressure would be in the lines so those relief valves could handle it.
      • by Quietust (205670)
        Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] lists an expansion ratio of 1 to 754 for liquid helium, which would certainly explain the amount of pressure exerted when it leaked.
  • Seems like Dr. Who aimed his screw driver at that thing. That would be cool though.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:02PM (#26094881)

    Anyone who has been following these developments closely knows that the "helium leak" is just a cover story for the out of control mini black hole they created when they turned it on. Those magnets were shifted when they were finally able to collapse down the black hole, it went out with a massive gravitation burst (measured by seismographs as far away as the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory) that damaged a lot more equipment then they are letting on. Now that they know how dangerous it is, I wouldn't count on them ever turning on the Large Hardon Collider again.

  • Does the $21M cover the repairs to the damage done by the gas leak directly, or to that and the changes needed throughout (I would imagine) the entire system to make sure it doesn't happen again? I mean, since it failed the test and the electrical wiring couldn't handle the high current, won't they need to upgrade all the wiring? Either way, $21M really doesn't seem that bad for a project of this magnitude, I mean, what is that, the annual profits of an average smallish medium sized business?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Werthless5 (1116649)

      We don't need to rewire the whole system, only a small batch of magnets that received the bad soldering job. The rest are fine, and we now have better ways of checking the soldering points remotely (ie without having to heat up the other 7 sectors of the LHC).

      The $21M covers all repair costs, including replacing some of the wiring in a batch of magnets in a particular sector. Actually, part of the plan is to use backup magnets (obviously double checked for this flaw) so as to save some time, but we don't

      • by ErkDemon (1202789)
        Are we sure that it's only a small batch of magnets that "received the bad soldering job"? I thought that the reason why the joint failed was still supposed to be an educated guess (since the joint in question completely vaporised, leaving us with nothing to examine).

        But maybe there's been some new information since last time I checked. Any pointers?

    • by ErkDemon (1202789)
      AFAII, there are still two repair options on the table.

      The "quick" option is estimated to give them (reduced) beam in late summer 2009.

      The "serious" option involves fitting a new exhaust system to every section of the ring, and means that they'll miss 2009, and we'll be looking at 2010.

  • You know somewhere in another universe this thing is working fine.
  • MRIs have a feature called quenching. Where when there is a problem there are small heaters which heat the Liquid Helium to a warmer temperature (that closer to liquid Nitrogen). So you don't break your million dollar MRI. But loose a Thousand dollar supply of Liquid He

    • Re:MRI Quenching (Score:5, Informative)

      by blueg3 (192743) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:20PM (#26096005)

      That's not a feature, that's a side effect. Some types of failure cause the liquid helium to warm up until the magnet is no longer at superconducting temperatures. This causes a sudden resistance, which can damage the magnet, heats the whole system up (boiling off the coolant), et cetera. MRI systems generally have an emergency shutoff feature, the side effect of which is magnet quenching.

      In this case, a quench is what happened -- resistance in the circuit caused helium boiloff, which destroyed superconductivity. They have many safeguards for this, as this was well-known before the first MRI or superconducting collider was built. Release valves allow the boiling helium to escape, and resistor banks are used to draw off electrical energy from the system. However, their system wasn't sufficient to handle the level of failure that occured.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clearly this was an act of Divine Intervention...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Werthless5 (1116649)

      Right now all of the detectors are calibrating with cosmic rays.

      I'll consider it an act of Divine Intervention when God uses cosmic rays to spell "TURN THIS SHIT OFF" on every detector.

      Until then, let's fix this black hole device!

  • In honour of the LHC starting up in September, my girlfriend made some celebratory cookies [today.com] ... of the Large Hadron Goatse. Note the gold ring.

    Ah, but don't go home with your hadron [sonymusic.com]
    It will only drive you insane
    You can't shake it (or break it) with your Motown
    You can't melt it down in the rain.

  • The pictures aren't appearing in my browser. Unclear why; some CSS botch or attempt at DRM, I expect. Anyway, here are the actual picture links:

    HTML 3.1 - it just works.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    New Scientist broke these pix, not CERN. I'm pretty sure i know who took those pix (not gonna tell!). "We" where i work have had them for a while, and have elected NOT to spread them around and allow CERN to put them up themselves. I guess someone decided to "help" them out. It is debatable as to the moral rectitude of this decision, but I could have put these up weeks ago and chose _not_ to.

    As i understand it, the pictures you see are taken 5 half-cells away from the primary failure, or somewhere aroun

  • "Well there's your problem!"

    Thanks for letting us in on the details so quickly.[/sarcasm]

  • One of my sources ( the one I use the tinfoil hat to talk to ) reports that in one of our adjacent alternative universes there is a black hole where Earth used to be. The last message through that pipeline was from one of the Cern engineers, saying "Watch This!" They have had to seal the connection to that universe to prevent our universe from being sucked through the pipe by the black hole at the other end.
  • Hey, remember the EJC at the connection this time!
  • Brings a tear to my eye.

  • Not with a whimper, Not with a bang, but with a chorus of high-pitched funny voices.

  • We need Alpinekat to write a new rap telling us what went wrong in 'street' terms.

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