Well, at least this means the Olympics will pass without being sucked into a black hole ;)

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) must close at the end of 2011 for up to a year to address design issues, according to an LHC director.

Dr Steve Myers told BBC News the faults will delay the machine reaching its full potential for two years.

The atom smasher will reach world record collision energies later this month at 7 trillion electron volts. But joints between the machine's magnets must be strengthened before higher-energy collisions can commence. The Geneva-based machine only recently restarted after being out of action for 14 months following an accident in September 2008.

Dr Myers said, "It's something that, with a lot more resources and with a lot more manpower and quality control, possibly could have been avoided but I have difficulty in thinking that this is something that was a design error. The standard phrase is that the LHC is its own prototype. We are pushing technologies towards their limits. You don't hear about the thousands or hundreds of thousands of other areas that have gone incredibly well."

"With a machine like the LHC, you only build one and you only build it once."

Apparently the problem likes with the superconducting joints' copper sheaths - designed to take up the current load if one of the magnets begins to warm up (which is comforting that they're bothering to ensure they work properly, at least, given that at peak the LHC can chomp through 50MW of the good stuff). At peak, the LHC is designed to smash atoms together using 14TeV of power, although it can run on a reduced (!) 7TeV - which scientists can use to look further into the nature of dark matter, so it's not just sitting idle in the meantime. Good stuff.



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