There were emotional scenes last night at the headquarters of underground international atom-smasher science alliance CERN, as joyful boffins celebrated the successful restarting of the Large Hadron Collider. The colossal machine circulated its first beam around the entire 27-km supermagnet circuit at 22:01 Swiss time, and sent the opposing beam round the other way at midnight.
Previous days had seen control-room boffins overcome a couple of late-breaking technical hiccups. One, described by enthusiastic amateur LHC-watcher Chris Stephens - of LHC Portal fame - as "an oopsie", saw a loss of cryogenics take out two sectors of the mighty doughnut on Thursday night. Then at the last minute a "quenchino" held matters up for a short interval.
The main CERN control room was described as being pervaded by "an unnatural sense of calm" at first; but as last night's long-awaited technical triumph neared, facilities all around CERN filled with jubilant boffins. Cerebral celebrations were thought to have continued until late into the night among some, but others, exhausted by working late all week, took a well-earned rest ("heavy night of magnet circuit testing", noted one of the team on Thursday morning).
It's important to note, especially for those concerned that the LHC may destroy the world and/or entire universe - perhaps in some fashion involving inept handling of artificially created black holes, or possibly the transmutation of entire planets into soup - that beam circulation is not the real deal. The Collider has as yet done no colliding, where the two beams - racing in opposite directions at almost the speed of light - are crossed, producing sub-subatomic particulate prangs of such violence as to mangle the very fabric of time and space.
Much more likely than the destruction of the universe, according to top CERN brainbox Sergio Bertolucci, is that the LHC will open up a "door" into some kind of extradimensional continuum. "Something might come through" says Bertolucci, or alternatively we might sent something through to the other side.
Bertolucci says that the portal can only open for an unimaginably brief instant, and will be of a smallness difficult to express. But mistakes have been made before, and many of our readers - tooled up with a selection of improvised portal-monster-busting weaponry and in some cases clad in reassuring tinfoil headgear - have barricaded themselves into impromptu strongholds just in case.
We'd say it's OK to come out for a while, though, as the CERN schedule doesn't call for any actual collisions until December 3 at the last look. Naturally we'll be covering the story for as long as there's a planet Earth to report from. Or until the demons, aliens, genetic hive legions or parallel globo-Reich Nazis catch up with us, anyway. ®