‘Big Bang’ Machine Launched
GENEVA ~ Europe’s leading physicists swapped their lab coats for their best suits on Tuesday for the official inauguration of a multibillion-dollar machine designed to shed light on the “Big Bang.”
There’s just one problem – the experiment itself will be out of action for several months, after a faulty electrical connection caused a massive helium leak.
Nevertheless, the inauguration ceremony went ahead as planned, with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in attendance and a special “molecular buffet” concocted by famed Catalan chefs Ferran Adria and Ettore Bocchia.
The chefs are famed for their molecular gastronomy cuisine that involves using different textures, temperatures and combinations as well as unusual cooking techniques.
The ceremony also featured exhibitions, an audiovisual concert and the music of Philip Glass, said a statement by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
But it was a far cry from the jubilation and media fanfare that greeted the launch of the experiment on September 10, which made newspaper front pages the world over.
The giant experiment called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) took nearly 20 years to complete and cost six billion Swiss francs (US$5.46 billion) to build in a tunnel complex under the Franco-Swiss border.
Scientists said a faulty electrical connection between magnets was likely to blame for a large helium leak which caused the LHC to be shut down later in September.
“The time necessary for the investigation and repairs precludes a restart before CERN’s obligatory winter maintenance period, bringing the date for restart of the accelerator complex to early spring 2009,” CERN said at the time in a statement.
The LHC is a 27-kilometre circular tunnel in which parallel beams of protons accelerate close to the speed of light.
It aims to resolve some of the greatest questions surrounding fundamental matter, such as how particles acquire mass and how they were forged some 13.7 billion years ago.
In the countdown to the September launch, some scientists sought to halt the proceedings, convinced that the experiment could create black holes and extinguish life on Earth forever. Their apocalyptic fears turned out to be misplaced.