'Electrical glitch' caused Big Bang collider to shutdown
The Large Hadron Collider built to probe the origins of the universe was forced to shutdown due to a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator's magnets, scientists have revealed. They hope to restart the collider next spring.
The biggest experiment ever conducted was stopped last month only 10 days after starting up its collider because of a resulting helium leak in the tunnel.
The experiment ran into controversy after some scientists claimed it could cause the end of the world by creating tiny black holes of intense gravity that would swell and swallo the planet whole. This has been thoroughly dismissed by scientists at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
An engineer works on the ATLAS detector in the collider. Cern scientists say they are on course to restart the experiment next spring
They hope to recreate the conditions immediately after the 'Big Bang' explosion which cosmologists believe is at the origin of our expanding universe.
The collider will send beams of subatomic particles around the 17-mile subterranean tunnel to smash into each other at close to the speed of light. These collisions will explode in a burst of energy creating new and previously unseen particles.
Cern Director-General Robert Aymar said the shutdown had been 'unforseen'.
'But I am now confident that we can make the necessary repairs, ensure that a similar incident can not happen in the future,' he added.
An electrical glitch caused a helium leak in the 17mile-long tunnel
The collider, built in a tunnel 100 meters (330 feet) below the ground and straddling the Franco-Swiss border on the outskirts of Geneva, will not restart until Spring 2009.
This is because it had to be warmed up from its operating temperature of minus 271.3 degrees Celsius (minus 456.3 degrees Fahrenheit) for the fault to be investigated and any repairs carried out.
By the time it could be cooled down again, CERN would have run into its annual winter maintenance.
CERN confirmed that it had the spare components in hand to ensure the LHC can restart next year, and said the incident had not put anyone at risk.