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'Big Bang' project put off to 2008

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« on: June 07, 2007, 01:20:48 pm »

'Big Bang' project put off to 2008POSTED: 11:18 a.m. EDT, June 6, 2007
Story Highlights• Tests at solving the mysteries of the universe pushed back to 2008
• Scientists want to recreate conditions that existed nanoseconds after the Big Bang
• The tests involve smashing particles together at high speed
• Experiment will also probe invisible "dark matter"

A giant magnet at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.

GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) -- First tests in a scientific project aimed at solving mysteries of the universe and the "Big Bang" which created it have been put off from November to late April or early May next year, an official said on Wednesday.

James Gillies, spokesman for the CERN particle research center near Geneva, said the delay was due to a series of minor problems with some elements in the vast array of equipment.

"We now intend to make the tests, which will allow the technicians to drive the machine, in late April or early May and then to go into full start up as planned by next summer," Gillies said.

The project at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research which straddles the Swiss and French border, involves smashing particles together at high speed in a channel around an oval-shaped 17 mile underground tunnel.

Researchers on the project, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), say this will recreate in miniature the conditions which existed nanoseconds after the Big Bang some 15 billion years ago and should allow them to see what happened next.

CERN says the experiment will also probe for knowledge about "dark matter" -- the invisible mass of energy that is believed to make up 96 percent of the universe.

The LHC project, involving scientists from CERN's 26 member countries and many other nations in gathering and processing the data from many billions of particle collisions every day, has been in construction for 15 years.

It is expected to be in operation for another 15.

At the center of the experiment, which cost many billions of dollars to set up, are vast magnets in cathedral-size caverns around the tunnel some 300 feet underground.

Originally two weeks of relative low-speed testing of the circuit had been planned for November, just before CERN closes down its particle accelerators for four months to save costly energy during the winter.

But smaller magnets burst during pressure tests at the end of March, and unscheduled work resulting from that incident has meant there would not be sufficient time for the preliminary "driving" tests before the shutdown, Gillies said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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