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Biggest Atom Smasher Inaugurated

  • Lisa Schlein

The Large Hadron Collider is being officially inaugurated despite an electrical failure that has put the world's biggest atom smasher out of business for several months. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the European Organization for Nuclear Research site that straddles the Swiss-French border near Geneva.

Political leaders, science ministers, CERN officials and six Nobel Laureates in Physics filed into the huge tent erected on the site of the Large Hadron Collider. They came to give thanks to the many countries that collaborated in this enormous multi-billion dollar scientific project.

They came to praise the many scientists who dedicated more than two decades of their lives to create the most powerful atom smasher in the world, a machine they believe will unlock many secrets of the universe.

In this video, LHC Project Leader, Lyn Evans relives the giddy moments on September 10 when the first beam of protons was injected into the LHC. Everyone was relieved and excited when the particles began traveling around the 27-kilometer underground tunnel, as it had been programmed to do.

But, the joy was short-lived. Lyn Evans told his audience of nearly 2,000 people that not long after the successful start-up, the LHC hit a snag.

"When the beam succeeded in making its first full revolution, a second spot appeared 19 millionth of a second after the first. In subsequent days, the commissioning of the LHC advanced very rapidly until we encountered an electrical fault that is now under repair. However, we have gone far enough to be sure that the machine works perfectly as expected," he said.

Scientists believe a poor soldering job on one of the particle collider's 10,000 connections caused the fault. CERN spokesman, James Gilies, tells VOA it is unlikely that the machine will be up and running until spring or summer.

"The biggest loss to the scientific community is time. We had hoped to have a month or two of data with collisions this year, which would have allowed the experimental collaborations really to start understanding their particle detectors," he said.

Lyn Evans is disappointed by the setback. But, remains optimistic that the LHC will achieve great results.

"During its construction, there have been many challenges, which have all been overcome one after the other," he said. "We are now looking forward to the start of the experimental program when new secrets will undoubtedly be revealed. The adventure of building the LHC will end and the new adventure of discovery will begin."

And that new adventure, say scientists will be to learn what happened when the universe was born 13.7 billion years ago. Physicists also believe the LHC will allow them to find an elusive elementary particle called the Higgs Boson, which should explain why other particles obtain mass.