900 GeV collisions are just hadron love-taps - when will CERN really get it on? 'This week'?
Far be it from us* to irresponsibly keep on stirring the pot of comedy paranoia on this one. But it's not time for those who fear the LHC to relax just yet. Mere 450 GeV beams and 900 GeV collisions are nothing: such particle smashups have long been on offer at the rival US Tevatron, and nothing untoward has resulted.
But LHC chiefs hope soon to turn up the Big Knob to no less than 3500 GeV, more than tripling the current awesomeness and providing truly spectacular proton pileups of violence never yet created in any atomsmasher. There is some worry that the machine may explode again if cranked up beyond that point, but if all goes well boffins may gingerly try turning it up even further to a truly shattering 5000 GeV.
Following additional mods and repairs next year, still more outrageous energies of 7000 GeV are planned for 2011, at which point hadrons will be ploughing into one another beneath Geneva with stupendous 14,000 GeV violence not seen since since the era immediately after the Big Bang**.
Given that the chiefs at CERN have shown themselves more than willing to deviate from their schedule with great suddenness, it's impossible to say how soon they might start breaking records on the LHC. Stephens, for one, monitoring events more or less round the clock from Arizona, speculates that all previous collision energies may be left behind very soon indeed.
I am going to GUESS. I cant see any reason to keep them from going to 1.2 TeV (higher power) and then doing more collisions..
The whole machine is working perfectly. I cant imagine a reason to stay at 450 GeV (low power)...
They could literally do a few mouse clicks [what? no Big Knob?] and in a few minutes be at higher powers.
So I think its very possible we will have higher power and maybe collisions this week.
Stephens has thus far proven himself a far more reliable source than the CERN press office and official annoucements, so his best guess might be worth considering.
We would note, however, that the end-of-world predictions are lunatic-fringe stuff, adhered to only by eccentrics. The genuine eye-popper to be expected from the LHC - and this is according to no less a boffin than Sergio Bertolucci, one of the biggest wigs of CERN - is a dimensional portal event of some kind. Bertolucci's calculations indicate that the portal would be inconceivably small and only open for a subinstantaneously minuscule interval: but it would require no more than a few dozen zeroes to have been dropped for a proper rent-in-the-very-fabric-of-spacetime type of occurrence.
We say: Go, boffins, go! Let's see what this baby can do! ®
*Oh all right, not that far actually.
**Or of course during cosmic-ray collisions in the upper atmosphere all the time.