A bit of bread dropped by a bird grinds ‘Big Bang Machine’ to a halt

November 7th, 2009 - 12:21 pm ICT by ANI  

Large Hadron Collider London, November 7 (ANI): Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) found their plans to emulate the big bang postponed this week when a passing bird dropped a “bit of baguette” into the machine, causing it to overheat.

According to a report in the Guardian, a CERN spokeswoman, Christine Sutton, said that scientists had headed above ground to investigate when they made their discovery.

“The problem related to the high voltage supply,” Sutton said.

“We get mains voltage from the grid, and there was an interruption in the power supply, just like you might have a power cut at home. The person who went to investigate discovered bread and a bird eating the bread,” she added.

Sutton said that the bird and its bread were discovered at a compensating capacitor - one of the points where the mains electricity supply enters the collider from above ground.

The incident cut power to one of the collider’s cooling plants, causing temperatures to rise by more than 3 degree Celsius in part of the tunnel.

Superconducting magnets within the LHC require a temperature of 1.9C above absolute zero (-273.15C) to steer, and ultimately collide, particles around the 16.8-mile (27km) circuit.

This latest incident, although far less severe, appears to bear some similarities to the fault that caused the LHC to shut for more than a year after its launch.

On that occasion faulty wiring led to an electrical failure, causing a rise in temperature which led to helium, cooled to minus 271C, being released into the machine.

The 2008 fault damaged a 400-metre stretch of the collider and cost CERN 23 million pounds.

Scientists had to redesign safety systems to prevent a repeat, a process which has taken over a year.

However, in this latest incident, the magnets were only stopped for three days, while the LHC could be recooled, and Sutton said the power cut did not pose a risk to either life or the future of the project.

“The beams (of protons) would have been dumped, we have very safe mechanisms that come instantly into play,” she said.

“They deposit beams into a huge block of graphite which is cooled to take up the energy of the beam. This is something CERN has a lot of experience of, perhaps power cuts will usually be caused by a more obvious kind of interruption than a bird eating a baguette - particularly by lightning, for example, but these incidents will happen,” she added. (ANI)

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