The biggest ever science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, should be operational this summer. Three years behind schedule and 30% over budget, the $8.7 billion LHC will collide protons together and lead ions next year, at colossal energies never before attempted. Don't hold your breath. Rudiger Schmidt at CERN, near Geneva, says,"The LHC is a frightening complex accelerator." A lot could still go wrong even before startup.
On the engineering side, most of the equipment custom designed and built, problems also are complex. One particular sore spot was a big triplet superconducting magnet from Fermilab, that exploded 13 months ago during a pressure test, releasing helium coolant. A design flaw had to be fixed in all 8 magnets, and finally, yesterday, one was successfully tested, applauded by a team of 50 physicists, engineers and technicians. There are another 1232 dipoles of 15 meter length, 400 5-7 meter focusing quadrupoles, and 5,000 corrector magnets to keep the hadrons, protons or ions, in the 27 kilometer main ring.