Posts Tagged ‘Accident’

Big particle collider to restart in September

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer Alexander G. Higgins, Associated Press Writer Tue Feb 10, 2:10 pm ET

GENEVA – Additional safety features being added to the world’s largest atom smasher will postpone its startup until the end of September, a year after the $10 billion machine was sidelined by a simple electrical fault, the operator said Tuesday.

The cost of the repairs and added safety features has yet to be determined, but it will be covered by the regular budget of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, spokeswoman Christine Sutton said.

The 20-nation organization, known as CERN, has said previously that repairs will cost at least 25 million Swiss francs ($21.5 million), but the amount appears to have risen since scientists could review the extent of the damage and devise new safety features.

“The costs will certainly have to come out of our normal budget,” Sutton said.

A faulty splice in the wiring shut down the Large Hadron Collider on Sept. 19, nine days after the machine started up with great fanfare. The resulting electrical arc damaged a section of the equipment and punctured an enclosure holding the liquid helium used to keep the collider at a temperature colder than outer space for maximum efficiency.

It has taken months to determine the full extent of the damage, which was limited to one of the eight sectors in the collider housed in a 27-kilometer (17-mile) circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border on Geneva’s outskirts.

Scientists have taken the setback in stride, saying that particle colliders always have such problems in the startup phase.

The massive machine was built to smash protons from hydrogen atoms into each other at high energy and record what particles are produced by the collisions, giving scientists a better idea of the makeup of the universe and everything in it.

They hope the collisions will show on a tiny scale what happened one-trillionth of a second after the so-called Big Bang, which many scientists theorize was the massive explosion that formed the universe. The theory holds that the universe was rapidly cooling at that stage and matter was changing quickly.

After the shutdown, 53 of the massive magnets designed to guide and focus the beams of protons that whiz at the speed of light through the tunnel had to be brought to the surface to be cleaned or repaired.

To prevent a recurrence of the problem, CERN is installing a new, highly sensitive protection system to detect any unwanted increases in resistance on the electrical connections so that it can shut down the current before anything is damaged, a statement said.

“Enormous progress has been made in developing techniques to detect any small anomaly,” it said.

Scientists also are installing new pressure relief valves for the liquid helium in two phases. The first set of valves will ensure that any damage would be minor should there be a repeat of the September failure.

The second set, to be installed this year and next year, “would guarantee” only minor damage “in all worst cases over the life of” the collider, according to a CERN statement.

The aim, said Sutton, is to “ensure that this machine is going to work beautifully for the coming decade or more.”

“With these additional valves we should really be safe against this kind of incident. Any damage that will occur will only be minor and not anywhere near as disruptive,” she said.

During the shutdown, around six tons of helium leaked out, overpowering the relief valves installed at the time and adding to the damage. The remaining 114 tons of liquid helium in the collider was unaffected by the leak, CERN said.

“What you have to try to think of is what can you
do to protect yourself against things that you haven’t thought of,” Sutton said. “It’s easy to protect yourself against things that you have thought of.”

Boy, 5, Dragged Away by Crocodile as Brother Watches

 Sunday, February 08, 2009An Australian tour guide plunged into a croc-infested swamp in a desperate bid to save his five-year-old son snatched by a 10-foot-long crocodile.

Steve Doble of Queensland, who owns Daintree Rainforest Rivertrain, flung himself into the waist-deep floodwaters Saturday only to find that his youngest boy had vanished.

He was alerted by the screams of his older son Ryan, 7, who had to be treated for shock after witnessing the attack.

Jeremy Doble, 5, is missing and feared dead after he was taken by the crocodile in the swamp behind his family home.

Locals said the “sweet, gentle-natured” child and his older brother were playing on a boogie board as their father fixed a broken boardwalk nearby, The Courier-Mail reported.

The Doble family was too upset to speak publicly about their ordeal Saturday.

“It is just devastating,” said long-time local Col Patterson, 44, whose family built and sold the tourist property to the family five years ago.

“Dad jumped in after him, but it was too late,” Patterson said. “His older brother saw it all and will, no doubt, be haunted by that image.”