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Friday, September 26, 2008

Good-bye, Large Hadron Collider. Hello, Black Mesa.

Good-bye, Large Hadron Collider. Hello, Black Mesa.
That's the reader's choice in Wired Science's Large Hadron Collider Renaming Contest, announced last week to fill the vast gulf between the LHC's scientific magnificence and utterly wonky name.
Since then, an electrical problem has shuttered the mammoth atom smasher until 2009 -- making Black Mesa, a reference to the bestselling computer game Half Life, a timely choice. It won't take long for delays and malfunctions to sour the public on their $8-billion Large Hadron Collider, but Black Mesa sounds scary and intimidating, like a leaked government project. Criticize it, and you'll end up on a watch list.
Black Mesa was submitted separately by Brian Reed and DSA. Finishing second was the Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick Simulator, submitted by Anonymous. Among my favorite also-rans were Master Blaster Atom Smasher; Atom Smasher +5, Holy Avenger; What Willis Was Talking About; The Big Banger; and The Thing We Play With When We Aren't Playing Warcraft.
All these entries are better than the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's winner: Halo.
The least-favorite choice in our contest was The Blesser, submitted by Vincenzo Maggio. Its sheer unpopularity was likely due to its religious overtones, but at this point, the LHC can use a bit of help, divine or not.

It's time to find something else to blame for all the recent strange occurrences in your life: The Large Hadron Collider, which had become a favorite culprit for everything from lost keys to lost jobs, will remain shut down until spring.
On Sept. 18, the news from CERN, the organization that runs the LHC, was that an electrical problem involved with a cooling system caused a helium leak that would keep the mammoth particle accelerator out of commission for a day or so. A couple of days later, the estimate had stretched into two months: The machine would need to be warmed back up, which will take three to four weeks, before a full investigation could be done.
Now the outlook is even more bleak for eager physicists, who have already waited decades for the giant collider to come to fruition, after only a week of tantilizingly successful beam operations.
The warm-up period and ensuing investigations will bump up against the LHC's "obligatory winter maintenance period," according to a statement today from CERN. This brings us into early spring before commissioning can restart.
“Coming immediately after the very successful start of LHC operation on 10 September, this is undoubtedly a psychological blow,” CERN Director General Robert Aymar said. “Nevertheless, the success of the LHC’s first operation with beam is testimony to years of painstaking preparation and the skill of the teams involved in building and running CERN’s accelerator complex. I have no doubt that we will overcome this setback with the same degree of rigor and application.”

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