It seems the Earth is safe – at least for now! The much feted Large Hadron Collider is going to be out of action until next summer.
Back in September, during the final stage of testing, a faulty electrical connection within the collider short-circuited. This, in turn, resulted in the release of a tonne of liquid helium – a hugely expensive coolant – into the collider tube, compromising its previously perfect vacuum. (Yes: a tonne. Clearly, the leak was noticed only *after* the technicians started to sound like Mickey Mouse.)
Having lost the helium, the temperature of the delicate, super-conducting electromagnets soared rapidly, from a frigid 1.9 kelvin (-271C) to more than a hundred degrees.
This catastrophic failure, known as a ‘quench’, has caused extensive damage, leaving CERN with a PR headache, a hefty 14 million pound repair bill and a long wait.