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Serious Magnet Failure at CERN's New Accelerator 193

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the smashing-atoms dept.
GrepNut writes "CERN is reporting that the giant magnets that steer the particle beam in the new and highly anticipated Large Hadron Collider have just failed catastrophically in a stress test, apparently due to a design oversight. It doesn't help that the magnets were designed and built by CERN's US competitor Fermilab." While safety precautions were followed, and no one was injured nor were any rifts in the space-time continuum opened, it's still a rather large setback for the project.
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Serious Magnet Failure at CERN's New Accelerator

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  • by DJCacophony (832334) <{moc.t0gym} {ta} {akd0v}> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @09:59AM (#18555627) Homepage
    The part was destroyed and subsequently compressed into a singularity by the black hole that the device created.
    • by MindKata (957167)
      Well, it would explain all the dark matter in the universe.

      Technologically advanced planets, who get to the point where they build their own LHC style machine. Then at the point of understanding, all knowledge in the universe, they experience a Douglas Adams style moment, and then get crushed to the size of pea in a Singularity.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:41AM (#18556367)
      Uh...it's probably not a problem...probably...but I'm showing a small discrepancy in...well, no, it's well within acceptable bounds again. Sustaining sequence...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:01AM (#18555645)
    But all credit cards within a 10-mile radius were erased.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:04AM (#18555665)
    ...and make sure there aren't any redshirts around the next time you install it.
  • by rheman1 (301503) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:06AM (#18555685)
    How many time do I have to tell you: Don't cross the streams!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Where would someone called Oddone work if not at a place that creates black holes.
  • Fidgeting magnets... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wakaranai (87059) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:16AM (#18555777)
    Hmm.... sounds nasty.

    Each of the ~1200 superconducting magnets is about 50 foot long. There's a photo here showing one being put in place (March 2005):
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7119458/ [msn.com]
  • Not Magnet Failure (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmIAnAi (975049) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:22AM (#18555827)
    From TFA:


    "The failure does not concern the magnets or the cold masses themselves, but rather their assembly in the cryostat."

    I know we don't read TFA here, but is it too much for the submitter to get past the first paragraph.

    • Not Magnet Failure?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by IvyKing (732111) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:03AM (#18556125)
      I've been involved in the design and construction of several magnets for NMR use - and the supporting structure is usually considered to be part pf the magnet - including the cryostat used in supercons.


      The interesting part of the article was that the cryostat design was reviewed by CERN personnel, so the issue of asymmetric loading on the cryostat was overlooked by more than just Fermilab. Sounds like and "Oh shit - nobody thunk of that" moment.

      • by kestasjk (933987) * on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:20AM (#18556249) Homepage
        An "Oh shit - nobody thunk of that" moment which building a particle accelerator.. Promising.
        • An "Oh shit - nobody thunk of that" moment which building a particle accelerator.. Promising.

          If you read TFA, the magnet worked fine in normal operation, the problem only occurred when an asymmetric load was put on the cryostat (which might happen when the magnet quenched). The outcome is that you have broken magnets, the major hazard is the helium vented when the magnets quench.

          These 'oh shit' moments are not unique to the US - the Europeans have had a few over the last decade:
          The first Arienne V lost because of an integer overflow
          An Airbus crashing because the flight computer thought ov

        • happens when the unintended event horizon occurs.
      • by Vireo (190514)
        From the article:

        (...) one of the three magnets within its enclosing cryostat broke at a pressure of 20 atmospheres, in response to asymmetric forces applied during the test. Such forces are expected on occasion during normal operation of the LHC.

        It seems to me that asymmetric forces was one of the thing being tested, or at least, that asymmetric forces were expected to occur, so at least, some people tought of that at CERN. The question is, were the asymmetric load in the design specs? If yes, then the des

    • by acvh (120205)
      not to mention this line from the same FA:

      "At this point the consequences, if any, for the LHC schedule are not yet known."
  • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:26AM (#18555857) Homepage
    ...they're going to boost the mass spectrometer to 105% (for the extra resolution). It should be fine just so long as they follow standard insertion procedure...but you don't need to know that - everything will be fine.
    • by segedunum (883035)
      Gordon doesn't need to know any of that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by StarfishOne (756076)
      If only they had rerouted auxiliary power via the main deflector dish this wouldn't have happened.. don't they teach anything in high school anymore? =/
  • Help me Gordon Freeman!
  • by kpainter (901021) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:46AM (#18555995)
    "...research associate Gordon Freeman pushes a crystalline specimen into the beam of an over-charged anti-mass spectrometer, the experiment triggers a resonance cascade, which causes severe structural damage to the entire facility and severs communications with the outside world, and within much of the facility itself..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mesa_Research_F acility#.22The_Black_Mesa_Incident.22 [wikipedia.org]
  • by master_p (608214) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:47AM (#18556003)
    God does not want us to dig a hole into His universe! that's why the new accelerator will never work!
    • More likely it will work just fine. God knows what will pour out of that hole, though.
    • Actually this incident is an example of unintelligent design. Apparently Fermilab did not test the structural loads experienced when the magnet quenches (goes superconducting to normal conducting) and their cryostat design cannot withstand this load....at least that was my understanding from the email which got sent out last week by the two DGs.
    • by TopherC (412335)
      Just thought I'd actually take that comment as half-serious and present the usual argument that some rare cosmic rays have been found to have many times the energies than the design energy of the LHC. I think the LHC runs at about 7 GeV, and cosmic rays can go up to at least 100 GeV. So nothing really new is going to happen at the LHC.

      The new part is that these interactions will now be made to take place right inside the two most sophisticated particle detectors on Earth. It's fun stuff, and you should b
  • It was a... (Score:3, Funny)

    by master_p (608214) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @10:59AM (#18556083)
    ...resonance cascade failure! :-)

  • Anti US Slant (Score:2, Interesting)

    by laing (303349)
    The article seems to place the full blame on Fermilab's poor design. I will withhold judgement until all the facts are known. Did CERN provide specific requirements for asymetric load bearing capacity? If there were no requirements provided to Fermilab, then it would seem to me to be a problem at the CERN end.
    • Er... The title says it is Fermilab statement. Right?
    • Re:Anti US Slant (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Asic Eng (193332) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:06PM (#18557085)
      No, putting the blame for a specific problem on some US organization is not "anti US". Everybody makes mistakes, and it's good engineering practice to accept responsibility for them when that happens. Fermilab thinks that the problem occured on their side, and they are trying to solve it.

      Working in a multi-national company with multi-national customers and designing safety-critical systems, I have some experience with handling mistakes. The best approach solving these technical issues, is to keep political games at bay as much as possible. Investigate thoroughly, take responsibility if you own the problem, then work on solving it. Once you start thinking "it's just that the other guys hate us" you've already lost. Any discussion will turn into a political slugfest, and lots of time will be wasted. The flipside is that you also need to keep good records - if someone tries to blame you for something you didn't do, you should have material to nip that in the bud. That works much better once you've gained a reputation for owning up to your own problems, btw.

      • No, putting the blame for a specific problem on some US organization is not "anti US". Everybody makes mistakes, and it's good engineering practice to accept responsibility for them when that happens.

        Putting the blame on another organization without having conducted a thorough investigation _is_ "anti US".

        Fermilab thinks that the problem occured on their side, and they are trying to solve it.

        Actually - Fermilab thinks no such thing. The acknowledge that a failure happened, noted the diffe

        • by jgrahn (181062)

          Putting the blame on another organization without having conducted a thorough investigation _is_ "anti US".

          You seem to critizise CERN. Thus, by your own logic, you either work at CERN, or you are anti US.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Asic Eng (193332)
          Putting the blame on another organization without having conducted a thorough investigation _is_ "anti US".

          At the very most it would be "anti that other organization".

          Actually - Fermilab thinks no such thing.

          Yes, they do. It's their press release, and their current thinking is that it's their fault. They may be mistaken, and probably hope they are, but they think it's their fault.

          CERN _is_ making gratuitous :anti US" statements.

          As pointed out many times in this discussion: the text posted at CER

    • It's a statement written by Fermilab themselves, yet it's anti-US because it seems to be Fermilab's fault?

      They must be Democrat lefties, the whole bunch of them.
    • by sl3xd (111641) *
      TFA doesn't seem anti-US; it really was a 'oh crap' moment, where Fermilab, other US labs (probably something like ORNL, LANL, Sandia, or LLNL), as well as CERN, reviewed the design, over a period of four years, and the flaw was overlooked every time. There's plenty of blame to pass around, and Fermi is simply trying to save face by stating that they aren't the only ones who missed it, and they aren't the only ones with egg on their faces. It's a weak argument, but saving face is important to any group de
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Coincidentally, Fermilab stands to gain most from delays at Cern. Its researchers also operate a rival but less powerful particle accelerator, the Tevatron.
      Cue the conspiracy theories... :)
  • Give me a break (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stox (131684) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:13AM (#18556187) Homepage
    The forces induced in these magnets during a quench is obscene. Given the size of the LHC, I would guess that these are the largest such magnets ever fabricated. When pushing the envelope so hard, failures are going to happen. It amazes me that the public's quality expectations are so high for such work. If Windows was built to the same standards, it would have uptimes measured in centuries.
    • It amazes me that the public's quality expectations are so high for such work. If Windows was built to the same standards, it would have uptimes measured in centuries.

      That's why software programmers are not engineers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)
        No, it's why software engineers aren't just programmers. The problem is that large mechanical engineering is done to standards that are well-understood and don't change that much. Software is much more of a moving target. Eventually, though, computing will become more mature, more stable ... and the job of engineer will take on more of its traditional meaning when applied to software development.

        Of course, at about that time we'll have invented a true AI and people won't be programming anymore. Hopefully
        • by birge (866103)
          Whatever. Computers have been around for almost half a century. By the time aviation had been around for half a century, we went from the Wright brothers to jet aircraft. Maybe software engineering isn't really engineering. My feeling is that it's kind of the ironic reverse of what you say: computers are such predicable environments that it's feasible to even try the ad hoc seat of our pants approach that is programming, and thus software engineering has never had to mature. Windows crashing may be a pain,
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Windows is far, far more complex than a magnet, or any other physical thing ever built.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Theaetetus (590071)
          Windows is far, far more complex than a magnet, or any other physical thing ever built.

          I disagree, and offer the ISS, the Internet, the Pentium that Windows is running upon, an Oil drilling platform, CERN, etc.

          The point is, software programming is at the stage where electrical engineering was a century ago: tinkerers, with no real standards, trying new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they explode. It was an exciting time, but it wasn't engineering. That didn't happen until standards came about,
          • by Raenex (947668)

            The point is, software programming is at the stage where electrical engineering was a century ago: tinkerers, with no real standards, trying new things.

            I used to think simarly, that something like a bridge was ho-hum, with no challenges and already thought out. And while I'm sure that many small ones are like that, I was really floored by the ad-hoc engineering that went in to the Clark Bridge [wikipedia.org]. Years ago I saw a documentary on it: Nova: Super Bridge [pbs.org].

            What stuck in my mind about that was the uncertainty if the thing was really going to stand up under operation. The design was somewhat experimental and built to within tight tolerances, instead of massive

        • by stox (131684)
          I can't argue that Windows is incredibly complex, but what value is added for all of its complexity? As best as I can tell, Microsoft is using the US Government as a template for software design.
  • It's not my goddamn planet monkey boy!
    I'll see you in hell Bucharoo Bonzai!
  • I am imagining that just before failure the fellow at the controls was muttering...

    "I'm Giving Her All She's Got, Captain ... She canna take much more of this, Captain"
  • ...is wrong. Should be the "Oh Sh*t!" department. Seems like the same kind of situation as when the Hubble Telescope was launched with the bad mirror and it's likely just as bad news for the forward progress of scientific knowledge. Says the article: "failure to account for the asymmetric loads in the engineering design of the magnet appears to be a likely cause..."
     
        Sounds like it is a big problem, not a small one.
  • Did anyone else read that as hardon collider?
  • It's the Doctor, paying a visit.
  • Anyone else reminded of the video game Out of this World [wikipedia.org] when they read this?

    *pines for the days of playing video games*
  • Interesting how this came out just a day after the ATLAS software and computing meetings in Munich concluded. I bet there are some interesting discussions happening there right now among the attendees that are still in town.

  • redundant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @12:05PM (#18556585) Homepage Journal
    Who the fuck tagged this "news" and "science" ?

    It's on a news site in the science section !

    WTF ?
  • Sounds like Black Mesa's experiment in Half-Life 1's introduction. ;)
  • Wow! CERN really DID invent a time machine as predicted, because this fake story from tomorrow got posted a day early.
  • Period.

    Those magnets are the best they could make them.
    • by Fuzzums (250400)
      If that's the best they can do it is time to shop for magnets somewhere else because they clearly doen't work very well.
  • Anyone missing PST files from last tuesday can use this.

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