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End of the world postponed

Published time: September 23, 2008 22:22
Edited time: September 23, 2008 22:22

An experiment hailed as the key to the secrets of the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe has been halted, due to damage suffered by the Large Hadron Collider. This will ease concerns that the Collider might create micro ‘black holes’ that would swa

Faulty magnets caused a helium leak in the project's tunnel, during the final test on September 10. Technicians say the damage means the experiment must be postponed until spring.

The 27 kilometre tunnel housing the ambitious project is kept at a temperature close to absolute zero. To investigate the fault, thought to be due to the electrical connections between two magnets fusing, scientists will have to warm up the facility. Heating the tunnel will take up to a month, and a scheduled Winter shutdown for maintenance means the LHC won't be back online until early 2009.

Thirty-six hours after the experiment was turned on a fault were detected in a transformer, which was replaced quickly because it was not inside the cold tunnel.

The Large Hadron Collider, a vast tunnel complex under Geneva, is designed to smash atomic particles together at close to the speed of light in order to study the building blocks of the universe. It is the result of decades of planning by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, an international organisation that brings together some 7,000 scientific minds from 80 countries.