Why the World's Largest Science Project Is Delayed

Leaks in the Large Hadron Collider have forced scientists to grimace patiently until November

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After two-plus years of delays, you would think that scientists waiting for a machine that could (rumor has it) bring on the Apocalypse would be impatient. But even after leaks in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) pushed back its restart until November, some researchers are maintaining a stiff upper lip. As Dennis Overbye of the New York Times reports, a few physicists have taken it in stride:

"The fact is, it’s likely to take a while to get the results we really want,” said Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist...“These are baby problems,” said Peter Limon, a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., who helped build the collider.

Others, however, are more frantic. Students and particle physicists are stamping their feet, longing for technology that would allow them to empirically investigate the most fundamental problems of their field. Cosmologist Mark Trodden at Discovery magazine puts it best:

"Particle physics is screaming out for a new result pointing the way to the physics that we know must lie beyond the unreasonably successful standard model....People really want the LHC."

It may be even worse for graduate students:

The long delays have ended the dreams of a generation of graduate students hoping to use fresh data for their theses. With no machine to deliver results, "people are doing experimental PhDs and effectively doing very little experimenting," says Will Reece, a graduate student at Imperial College London working on a detector known as LHCb. "It's a strange situation."

The bottled up frustrations are understandable in light of how difficult it is to investigate the minute particles posited by modern physical theories. It's a measure of how much hope scientists are banking on the LHC that they are gnashing their teeth while also "keeping our fingers tightly crossed." But for those who fear the Doomsday side-effects of the accelerator, there may be reason to hope it's cursed. As Graeme McMillan jokes at io9,

The discovery of new repairs necessary to the Large Hadron Collider have pushed its restart date yet again - Are there cosmic powers trying to tell us something about the program?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.