I rather enjoyed this article that appeared in this week’s CERN Bulletin about the LHC schedule. It reminds us of just how much work is going on behind the scenes — or at least, behind the scenes if you are an experimenter patiently waiting for beam, as opposed to all the accelerator people actually doing the work. The LHC, like any large accelerator, is actually built from many individual systems that interact with each other, and doing something in one system can have effects in the others. Coordinating all of the work that is being done right now is a huge task that requires careful control. (I actually have similar thoughts when I go to visit our new physics building, which is currently under construction. So many details to keep track of in building a building, and it’s not nearly as big as the LHC. (Physics majors of the world: ask me about our graduate program in physics and our lovely new building!))
There are two other things that I took away from this article. The first is that while the LHC startup date has slipped a little bit from the announced plan in February (from late September to mid-November), CERN has actually completed much more work since then than they had originally anticipated doing. This should give us a more reliable LHC than we would have had otherwise, which to me seems worth the very slight additional wait. The second is that CERN is so focused on providing a reliable machine, so that there will be reduced risk of a delay as long as the one we are currently living through — and an increased chance of observing new physics soon.