Engineers at Cern near Geneva hope to restart the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful atom smasher, this weekend.
Understandably it will be a low-key affair, with the media not invited, in contrast to the razzmatazz of the original start-up in September 2008. Nine days later the $8bn LHC suffered a serious electromagnetic failure and it has been shut down ever since, as Cern carried out comprehensive repairs and installed new safety equipment.
If final checks are satisfactory, Cern engineers will send proton beams round the 27km LHC underground ring tomorrow at fairly low energy, first in one direction and then in the other.
They may carry out some collisions between beams before Christmas, again at relatively low energy. But the moment Cern calls “first physics” – the first high-energy collisions that could produce interesting scientific results – is unlikely to come until January. And Cern has promised to invite some journalists then, though there may not be more than a day or two’s notice.