Timeline: CERN’s LHC Experiment


Will the LHC experiment smash particles in 2008? The LHC project has been advancing, but not fast enough due to technical setbacks and the challenge of handling vast amounts of data.

5 April 2007: The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) extended its funding of the grid computing project, GridPP, by giving an additional 30 million. UK researchers designed the system to help analyse data that would be captured by the major experiment of a Large Hadron Collider (LHC), developed by The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN.

18 October 2007: The UK's GridPP project leads in analysing the data about the CERN particle accelerator. The LHC@home project, an extension of GridPP that allows the public to donate spare computing power to CERN scientists, was moved from Geneva to Queen Mary, University of London. The extra space is used to run simulations of the LHC, ensuring that protons stay in their orbits while travelling the 17 mile circuit.

8 September 2008: CERN's LHC is a massive IT project linking hundreds of thousands of computers. When the LHC goes live data will be sent to thousands of scientists around the world. The machine has been built to test the "big bang" theory of the evolution of earth as well as to find the so-called god particle, dubbed Higgs Boson, which will explain how mass-less elementary particles allow matter to have mass.

9 September 2008: A mass of wires and metal combine to make the LHC, which includes some 100,000 CPUs linked over a massive grid to process and analyse data from CERN's experiment. The system includes huge detectors and magnets, sensitive sensors, and other high-tech science equipment and shows just how beautifully engineering and IT can coincide.

12 September 2008: A group named the 'Greek Security Team' hacked into the LHC's network and posted a warning about weaknesses in the infrastructure. The hackers stated that the technicians working on the project were "schoolkids" and that they were not to be messed with. CERN scientists were concerned as the hackers were only a "step away" from the computer control system of one of the machine's magnetic detectors.

22 September 2008: A large helium leak in the tunnel of the LHC caused the machine to be shut down 19 September 2008. A faulty electrical connection between two of the machine's 30-ton super-conducting magnets was the cause of the problem, which will take two months to fix. The temperature of the area affected needs to be raised for repairs and then lowered to minus 271.3 degrees Celsius again for the experiment to work properly.