Large Hadron Collider to shut down, not baguette this time

The Large Hardon Collider (LHC) is to shut down at the end of 2011, just in time to cause the (speculated) end of the world by 2012.

According to reports, the atom smashing machine needs to fix design and safety issues which is stopping it from reaching its potential. Apparently, world record collisions of 7 trillion electron volts isn’t enough – the LHC needs to be made safer before collisions at about twice that level can start.

The LHC is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator built by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), with the goal of colliding protons or lead ions at very high energy, recreating the conditions after the Big Bang. 

This will address the most fundamental questions of physics, or if you read the internet a little too closely, blow up the world.

Perhaps understandably given the cost and aim of the LHC, it has suffered various problems since protons beams were successfully sent out in September 2008. A couple of weeks later the LHC had to be halted for more than a year following an accident. 

The most infamous incident was last November, when CERN revealed that a bird dropped a bit of baguette into the machine, causing it to cut power to the collider’s cooling plants and making it overheat. 

To avoid another breach, scientists will run the machine for 18 to 24 months at half-maximum power before switching it off for a year to carry out improvements.

CERN’s director of accelerators Dr Steve Myers told the BBC: “It’s something that, with a lot more resources and with a lot more manpower and quality control, possibly could have been avoided, but I have difficulty in thinking this is something that was a design error.”

Myers said that a big problem was that the LHC was its own prototype, and things could be done once as it was already pushing the technology towards its limits.