The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), mightiest particle-masher ever assembled by the human race, briefly circulated its first hadron beams of 2010 at the weekend. However the vast machine has now been shut down again to remedy further technical snags.
Following last week's unfortunate multi-magnet quench incident, which saw large sections of the LHC's 27km forcefield conduit blink offline just as boffins were about to start powering particles around it, a new redline was painted on the dials in the control room. It had been hoped that beams would fire up on Friday, but in the event there was no success until the early hours of Sunday morning.
Even as the world's media noted that beams were back up, however, a "cryo intervention" was declared and beaming ceased. As this report is written, the LHC's subterranean tunnel circuit is cleared for people to enter (nobody is allowed down there when beams are up - access doors have retina-scan locks, and "it has to be a live eyeball", according to our control-room sources).
The latest estimates say that the rectification and recovery to supercold operating temperatures is expected to take until 5 or 6 o'clock this evening Swiss time.
It looks as though it may be a while before the Collider team can get the insanely complex machine back up to the record-breaking collision intensities seen late last year - and then onward to the planned 7 Tera-electron-Volt matter-mangling expected later this year. The LHC was designed to be capable of firing two even more outrageous 7 TeV beams into each other for an ultimate collision energy of 14 TeV, but following previous superfluid explosion disasters engineers now consider that a major refit will be required before such power levels are safe. ®