Monday, September 29, 2008

LHC self-destruct

The LHC's coolant may explode. Basically, if you expose a Bose-Einstein Condensate to a very powerful, rapidly changing magnetic field, the attractive forces holding it together flip to repulsive forces instead. Not usually a problem, the amounts of BEC normally involved are tiny. But superfluid liquid helium is a BEC. And the LHC uses 700,000 liters of the stuff. Now, the statement that no other facility handling large quantities of liquid helium has exploded sounds good, until you realize that no other facility is using the liquid helium to cool extremely strong electromagnets.

One up-side: if the theory turns out to be right and the BEC does explode, it won't require any special equipment to verify it.

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