The Large Hadron Collider - mightiest particle-smasher ever built, and possible portal to other dimensions - came back online late last night following a power cut which not only shut down the Collider but also caused it to vanish off the internet for a time.
Amateur LHC-watchers, observing the great machine either for pleasure or in trepidation lest it destroy the world and/or universe in some kind of horrendous black-hole planet implosion/world-soupening event etc, were startled to see most of the great machine's webpages, cams and such suddenly vanish in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Many a tinfoilclad LHC-doomsday prophet will doubtless have found his* nether garments embrowned as the entire facility seemed to have disappeared instantaneously, perhaps foreshadowing a similar imminent fate for the rest of humanity. In fact, the blackout affecting much of the Meyrin site above the LHC's underground tunnel complex - including the main computer centre, hence the web vanishment - was caused by a blown 18 kilovolt power connection.
Diesel backup generators immediately cut in, keeping the all-important cryogenic machinery around the mighty machine's circuit powered up. The Collider's 27 kilometres of magnetic vacuum-pipe must be kept within a hair of absolute zero in order to function, and had they warmed up to any significant degree it would have been a time-consuming job to get them back in order. Should such a "quench" scenario occur with beams up and burning, the energy release would be equivalent to the facility being rammed by an aircraft carrier - though the beams can be instantly "dumped" into special cooled, shielded graphite buffers if cooling is lost.
Fortunately no such disaster occurred, and by lunchtime yesterday adequate power supplies had been restored. However, various different bits and pieces around the complex had developed collywobbles of one kind and another following the outage ("pre-cycling interruptus" was mentioned) and control-room boffins were compelled to repeatedly move back their forecast restart time - happily for us meaning that our news-breaking report yesterday remained correct.
As of 2215 Swiss time last night, weary scientists managed to finally get a beam circulating once more, though various technical hitches continued to bedevil the machine through the night.
Prior to the mishap, the next event of interest was scheduled to be low-energy collisions at a mild 450 giga-electron-volts on Friday afternoon, but this is likely to be revised. In any event, collisions up to almost 1000 GeV have been carried out routinely at the US Tevatron for years, so neither radical new science nor planetary apocalypse can be expected from them.
Still, record-breaking beam energies have already been achieved at the LHC. Collisions at unprecedented power - and with them beezer new science, perhaps even the hotly anticipated dimensional portal event - may yet be on the menu before Xmas.
We'll keep you posted. ®
*Mostly his, we believe