P.S. On a personal note, Aunt Helen, I hope your surgery goes smoothly today. My thoughts are with you.
To harness the powerful beams of protons and steer them around the ring, scientists have to create strong magnetic fields. This requires superconducting electromagnets, whose wire coils can carry large electric currents with virtually no resistance. For the wire to become superconducting, the magnets must be kept very cold—in this case at a temperature of -271 degrees Celsius, close to absolute zero.And the meaningful part for me is that although other accelerators (like the Tevatron at Fermilab) have used superconducting magnets before, the LHC magnets are really pushing the current limits of technology. Plus, each magnet stores a lot of energy. What happened last Friday was a quench. That means that the magnet all of a sudden was no longer superconducting, so it released a lot of energy.
When a quench begins, the beams are shut down and power to the affected magnet is immediately cut. Then heaters fire up, quickly raising the temperature of the whole 14.3-meter-long, 35-ton magnet and dissipating the energy.Usually, this procedure should mitigate the damage. But something went wrong this time (according to the press release, possibly a bad electrical connection), and caused a lot of cold Helium gas to fill the tunnel. No one was hurt, because no one is allowed in the tunnels when the machine is running (there are lots of strict safety procedures), but any sort of damage to the accelerator pieces in that sector needs to be fixed before we can start running again.
I had to return a favor that I was given some time ago. So is life. Sorry.
When the protons collide with each other inside the machine, one thing that scientists are certain won’t happen is the production of miniature black holes that gobble up nearby matter. A new study shows that the continuing existence of old stars in the sky is evidence that small black holes can’t swallow the Earth...