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  • CERN Parties Like It’s 2009
Oct 2008
GENEVA, Oct. 21, 2008 -- Despite a malfunction that has shuttered the world's largest particle accelerator until 2009, officials at CERN, the organization hosting the ailing atom smasher, held an inauguration ceremony today.

Attending the celebration to inaugurate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were Swiss President Pascal Couchepin and French Prime Minister François Fillon, as well as science ministers from CERN's 20 Member States (including the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy), and members of the worldwide scientific community. The LHC is located deep underground at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, and staddles the Swiss and French borders. It cost more than $6 billion to build.
The media and members of the global physics community gathered Sept. 10 at the CERN Control Centre for the LHC's First Beam Day. (Photograph: Maximilien Brice, Copyright ©CERN)
The LHC is expected to reveal a world of unknown particles, and the collider's experiments could explain why those particles exist and behave as they do. They could reveal the origins of mass, shed light on dark matter, uncover hidden symmetries of the universe and possibly find extra dimensions of space.

The inauguration ceremony consisted of speeches, exhibitions and a new audiovisual concert, "Origins", an adaptation of "Life: A Journey Through Time", featuring the imagery of National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting and the music of Philip Glass, performed by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

After 20-plus years of planning, the first beam of protons in the LHC was successfully steered around a 17-mile racetrack at nearly the speed of light on Sept. 10. On Sept. 19, a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator's magnets resulted in a magnet quench, releasing six of the sector's 15 tons of helium into the underground tunnel. Officials later said repairs to the magnets and the facility's normal winter shutdown will delay restarting the collider until next spring. (See LHC: No Smashing Until Spring)
Investigations have shown that a faulty electrical connection between two magnets (shown in red) was the cause of the Sept. 19 incident in sector 3-4 of the Large Hadron Collider. Four tons of helium were lost during the magnet quench.(Image: Copyright ©CERN)
An investigation conducted after the temperature of the magnets in question was allowed to rise from near absolute zero to close to room temperature revealed that proper safety procedures were in force, the safety systems performed as expected, and no one was put at risk, CERN said. There are sufficient spare parts available to ensure that the LHC will be able to restart in 2009, the organization said. Up to five quadrupole and 24 dipole magnets from the three subsectors involved need to be repaired.

“This incident was unforeseen,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “but I am now confident that we can make the necessary repairs, ensure that a similar incident can not happen in the future and move forward to achieving our research objectives.”

"The LHC is the largest and most sophisticated scientific instrument ever built. There have been many challenges along the way, which have all been overcome one after the other," said LHC project leader Lyndon Evans at the inauguration ceremony today. "We are now looking forward to the start of the experimental program. The adventure of building the LHC will end and a new adventure of discovery will begin."

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