If you don’t know already, the director of CERN has announced the plan for starting up the LHC. If all goes well, there will be protons circulating in the LHC in November, and first collisions shortly thereafter. Next, probably in December or early in 2010, the energy of the collisions will be increased to 7 TeV and the LHC will become the world’s highest energy collider.
The articles cited by Ken in his post gave the impression that the LHC project is on the verge of failure, while this is simply not the case. As Ken urged, “let’s try to be optimistic”! While the accelerator will not run at the full energy it is designed for right away, this plan allows operators to gain their first experience colliding beams in the LHC, and allows the detector groups to see particles from collisions in the LHC for the first time as well. The data we collect next year will allow us to produce our first physics results. If all goes well at 7 TeV, the energy will then be raised again to about 10 TeV, and we would have a chance at discoveries next year.
But even 7 TeV would be quite an achievement. Remember that the Tevatron collider at Fermilab currently holds the world record for energy at just under 2 TeV. 7 TeV is not exactly total failure!
I think the announced plan is good news for everyone in the particle physics community. Last year’s accident hit the community very hard, especially after being so close to having collisions. Collisions last year would have brought pure joy. Collisions this year will bring joy, but first probably relief. Relief at not having to answer questions about the LHC not working, and relief for graduate students who would have data they could analyze in order to graduate. Many of us will be holding our breath for the next few months. After we see some collisions we can experience that joy, and then start down the long path towards answering some of the fundamental questions we have about the universe.