In September 2008 days after start-up a $40 Million accident crippled the LHC for over a year. Until the surprise winter break, CERN's objectives were for 3.5 TeV beams by the end of 2009 instead of the 1.18 TeV beams achieved, though with a bonus of some test collisions at a record 2.36 TeV.
Data highlights of CMS collisions have just been released in an article on MIT News. The big surprises were high numbers of mesons produced, and those numbers increased faster with collision energies, not predicted by models based on lower energy collisions at other colliders. CMS will publish its formal paper in the Journal of High Energy Physics.
Why Stop There? 2.36 TeV instead of 7 TeV
The abrupt end to commissioning in December at higher energies also surprised CERNies on site besides fans of the LHC. It wasn't because of the usual winter shutdown over the holidays. Safety concerns won over speed. Going to higher TeV meant jumping over another threshold in magnet powering, above 2,000 Amps. With so many magnets damaged last time during the 2008 busbar accident, Steve Meyers, CERN's #1 collider guy, decided to go slow again. Anyway the leaky CMS experiment and the faulty nQPS, the new Quench Protection System for the thousands of magnets, were also having trouble big time.
2010-2011 LHC Run 18-24 Months at 3.5 TeV per Beam
After a rethink last week at Chamonix, the collider's favorite ski resort, CERN has decided on going slower still. After current repairs and retrofits that should be completed by mid-February, now pushed ahead to March (don't ask) the LHC will aim for 3.5 TeV beams and 7 TeV collisions or 7 Tera or 7 Trillion Electron Volts, over the next 18 to 24 months, shutting down for lengthy major safety retrofits for possibly a year. Then in 2013 commissioning to 7 TeV per beam and 14 TeV collisions. Alarmingly sensible. Collider safety taking precedence? Congratulations, CERN.
Though potentially more dangerous heavy lead ion collisions, are now off the back burner and might start this Fall.
Unforeseen Radiation and $235 Million to $Billions More In Upgrades
More surprises at Chamonix. The end of January 5 day event, largely a study of safety at 5 TeV per beam, current LHC status of safety upgrades, and future safety upgrades, was more of the usual data avalanche. Here comes the check for the big holiday blowout.
Including new amazing unforeseen radiation hazards that will develop as the collider runs (Session 6--Radiation to Electronics) to deficiencies in the pre-accelerators (Session 8) including Electron Cloud trouble, and aging equipment and a need for higher energy injection beams with more bunches per beam or Billions More Dollars in upgrades. Maybe 100 Million Swiss Francs in civil engineering to move huge power supplies away from radiation zones, unknown but substantial costs to shield and/or redesign and replace equipment prone to radiation damage. Maybe at a minimum 1.3 or 1.4 Billion SF to upgrade pre-accelerators, probably much more if aging systems need full replacement. And more major upgrades to ventilation equipment including more ventilation shafts that were alarmingly inadequate for the 6 ton spill of Helium in 2008.
Here's the schedule and presentation abstracts including links to CERN docs and slides, "LHC Performance Workshop - Chamonix 2010". A "Summary of the ....", the webcast of February 5 and now a 2 part video from CERN, covers the main points made at Chamonix. Here's the abstract of the video, including links to docs cited and slides shown.
An important but informal end comment from the DG, Dr Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the new Director General of CERN since January 2009, didn't make it to video.
After Steve Meyers overview of radiation hazards developing and damaging equipment, to answer the big unspoken question hanging in the air, Meyers said:
"I think a declaration 10 or 15 years ago that the underground service areas in the LHC were non-radiation areas."
After Meyer's conclusions, Dr Heuer, sitting in his seat up front summed up his thoughts this way to the CERN audience:
"Instead of making decisions every 3 months, I prefer to have enough time to think it over."
A radical change from last year's we're good to go to 5 TeV per beam and gradual installation of more safety systems over the next 5 years. The estimate back in July for safety after $40 M in repairs was a whopping $235 Million extra in "LHC Status by Steve Meyers..." CERN video, still ignored by the media for safety the collider should have had before the accident of 2008. No CERN press release, that must be it. The new faster CERN schedule on safety upgrades will still mean spending the $235 M, while $1 to $2 Billion more on other upgrades thanks to the Chamonix review is now being considered. Hard to recall the LHC is a new collider.
One thing CERN forgot was the $1 Gazillion for Computer Systems Security including SCADA and Ethernet-Connected Instrumentation Systems. Why wait for the Trojans to attack?
All Ahead Slow: New Physics In Sight
If the LHC Machine is being re-engineered for more safety, it's the same old anything goes as to what the LHC might produce in terms of New Physics. Exciting not to know where physics is going, but hardly something to brag about. An army of the best minds in HEP don't have a clue? We're going to the Moon, but we might wind up on Mars or Venus or maybe we don't have enough thrust to go anywhere?
We've all read about it over and over again. Wow, the LHC is on the brink of answering the biggest questions in the Universe. Great. Where can I buy one? Or more realistically the LHC is an experiment with the unknown, with unknown consequences, with little in the way of safety studies and risk assessments.
As with design and engineering before the accident, CERN is still relying on its own considerable expertise in what will happen at the LHC with its experiments. It's what CERN doesn't do with all that expertise that raises some red flags on safety like not studying all the risk scenarios and not performing slow and difficult computer modeling of collider objects the LHC might produce and what they would do at the LHC.
CERN isn't worried, so why should we be? Well, CERN wasn't worried before the big accident CERN still calls "the incident". Accidents preventable, incidents happen. Now poised to go to extremely high energy collisions of 7 TeV as early as this March and ultimately to 14 TeV, the LHC may create objects like micro black holes that might threaten the planet.
This is Part 1 of a report on machine safety and potential risks of expected Collider Objects like mBH at the LHC when the collider jumps to very high unknown energies this March. "Doomsday Report: New Physics At The LHC" will appear in The Science of Conundrums.
NewsHammer Part 2: Fantastic LHC Energies May Be Higher Than Expected