Posted: 13 Nov 2009 03:49 PM PST
CERN is reporting that the Large Hadron Collider could circulate particle beams through both of its pipes in just over a week. If all goes well, the first collisions would begin soon after that.
The LHC has had a rough time since it first started up in September last year. Just a week after it started up, an electrical problem shut it down again. The first down-time estimate was a day or so, then it became months. And when the repair was just about finished, vacuum leaks in July set it back several more months. It has now been more than a year.
In the meantime, scientists working at Fermilab's Tevatron, the current leader of the high-energy particle physics world, have been furiously collecting data. They are hoping to find the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that would support the Standard Model of physics before the LHC sneaks in and grabs the glory.
Right now, particles are circulating through six of the eight sectors of the LHC's 17-mile track, and the last two sectors will be turned on in the coming week. If the machine doesn't break down again, physicists will finally have their long-awaited collider and, hopefully, start answering those nagging questions about the universe.
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