News FocusParticle Physics

The Large Hadron Collider Redux: Hoping for a Long, Hard Slog

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Science  28 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5944, pp. 1067-1069
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1067

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Last September, the Large Hadron Collider mangled itself only 9 days after researchers turned on the massive subterranean atom smasher. Nevertheless, accelerator physicists say they're confident that the 27-kilometer-long, $5.5 billion machine will work when their colleagues at the European particle physics lab, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, restart it this fall. In fact, given the way it purred before breaking down, accelerator physicists generally expect the LHC to start smashing particles without much ado. However, they say it will be much harder to reach the machine's design goals—collisions at an energy seven time higher than has been achieved before and a 30-fold increase in the record for the rate of collisions. A look back at previous accelerators shows that the three machines most similar to the LHC took years to reach their design goals. And some accelerator jocks wonder whether the LHC will ever reach its outsized specs.