More WTF BS at the LHC?

A while ago, I complained that the people running the LHC did not have their act together when it came to managing and disseminating information for the interested public. I took a little flack for that (see comments) but I was right. And I’m still right. We (the interested public) were just recently given a very nice overview of the potential for the next several months of research. Then, today, we find out that the LHC is fundamentally busted and will be shut down for a significant rebuild. And part of that news is that this has been the plan for a long time. But I guess they forgot. Or something.

Can anyone explain to me what is going on?

Comments

  1. #1 sadpanda
    March 11, 2010

    http://press.web.cern.ch/press/lhc-first-physics/msg-dg-100309/

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/science/2010/03/brian-cox-bbcs-lhc-story-is-a-pile-of-merde-as-we-say-at-cern.html

    What they’re saying is the LHC is going to be run at 7 TeV levels for 18-24 months then a long shutdown for maintenance and engineering to get it ready to run at 14 TeV full capacity.

  2. #2 PaulM
    March 11, 2010

    What’s going on is that reporters who seem to have reading comprehension difficulties are misunderstanding simple announcements from the LHC folks.

    The Discovery News article you linked to already has a correction.

    I follow Professor Brian Cox on Twitter, and he was mightily annoyed yesterday by the incorrect reporting.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    March 11, 2010

    So, the key source for someone who wants to know what is going on is to follow some guy on twitter? The LHC does know about the web, doesn’t it? To be fair, I’ve not checked back to their site lately, but my original whining about this was in part because their own site was out of date and contradictory and so on. Bad reporters may not really be the problem here. Lack of accurate up to date forthcoming press releases could be the problem.

  4. #4 rpenner
    March 11, 2010

    Lots of people found the August 2009 press release:

    http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2009/PR13.09E.html

  5. #5 James Annan
    March 11, 2010

    WTF is an “up to date forthcoming press release” supposed to be? You’re complaining because they don’t tell you tomorrow’s news, today?

    Mind you I heard on the news that the LHC was trying to “recreate the Big Bang”. In that case I hope they get shut down before they succeed :-)

  6. #6 PaulM
    March 11, 2010

    No, the key source is to read the CERN announcements. I read the latest one and understood what they were on about perfectly well.

    The reporting on that announcement really was misleading.

    And I wouldn’t dismiss Brian Cox as “some guy on Twitter”, he’s currently one of the better known scientists in the UK due to his efforts to promote public understanding of science, among other things. He also works at CERN, spends a lot of time explaining to people just what it is that they’re doing there, and is easily accessible to reporters.

    The BBC (who seem to be among the initial culprits) had no excuse for messing up their article, after all Prof Cox actually does work for them as well. His 5-part series “Wonders of the Solar System” has just started on BBC 2.

    If I were a reporter covering CERN-related stories he’s a resource I would not ignore.

  7. #7 daedalus2u
    March 11, 2010

    I hadn’t been following it that carefully but I knew that this was what was going on. Those high field superconducting magnets are tricky and in some respects more of an art than a science. They blew out a bunch of connections, trying to do stuff fast and cheap, and it wasn’t quite good enough.

    The initial test magnets they made were a lot better than the ones that came out of mass production. Why? No one was quite sure. There is also hysteresis in the magnets, there is some “conditioning” that goes on, magnets brought up to full power slowly seem to work better, exactly why is not clear.

    I think they are doing the physics now at lower power (which is still higher than anything else can reach) in part so that people can get thesis work done.

  8. #8 MadScientist
    March 11, 2010

    After the last incident various systems were reviewed and I guess some people complained loudly about being ignored in the past when they said “told ya it wouldn’t work”. So some experiments will be run but it is now generally agreed that trying to push the accelerator to higher energies will fail unless they change some things. Basically just about anything that goes wrong is a nightmare so you want to avoid things going wrong. This stuff takes time, so you just have to wait – there’s nothing much that can be done to hurry things along.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    March 11, 2010

    Sorry, I’m still not seeing it. CERN has two or three outlets, including their web site front page, their “press” web site (part of the former) and the bulletin. The other information comes form other much more obscure sources that one would only know about if you were really inside and/or involved. Or follow just the right twitter feeds.

    There is a notable discordance between the standard CERN outlets and the actual information, and it is a bit disconcerting to see CERN people blaming the fact that the press reported what was on their site without knowing about the other information as sloppy reporting.

    The activities at CERN need not be some deeply hidden mystery that can only be known by investigative reporters!

    I certainly did not mean to diss Brian Cox as some guy on twitter. What I mean by that is simply that a source (no matter who) on twitter poitning to something that points to something that indicates that there was a meeting at which something was said that utterly contradicts what the main web site says … is not well managed information and public outreach.

  10. #10 JBC
    March 11, 2010

    Scientists are bad at PR and science journalists are lazy and ill-informed.

    Stop the presses.

  11. #11 Luboš Motl
    March 12, 2010

    Dear Greg, the “news” about the shutdown or problems of the LHC are complete rubbish proving that most of the journalists are just incompetent imbeciles trying to sling mud on anything.

    The shutdown schedule, with the hugely long run at 7 TeV and a break before the upgrade (of some copper connectors, and various security) to the maximum 14 TeV, has been known since January 2010.

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/01/lhc-1femtobarn-of-2×-35-tev-collisions.html
    http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2010/03/11/de-mystifying-the-lhc-shutdown/
    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-03/10/don%27t-worry-the-large-hadron-collider-isn%27t-broken.aspx

    It’s old information, not “news”, and moreover, it was a good news, not bad news, when it was news.

    The LHC is doing well.

    http://sify.com/news/large-hadron-collider-performing-well-news-international-kdjqaceibgc.html

    It will start to collide at 7 TeV within two weeks or so. It’s an amazing energy, tripling the previous record, that is already likely to bring new discoveries pretty soon.

    Cheers
    Lumo

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    March 12, 2010

    Lumo, I’m sorry, but no.

    While it is possible to follow and reconstruct the events leading to whatever information is out there, even within the documentation you provide it is clearly stated that there was no press release. The fact is that this all has to be reconstructed post hoc, and that is annoying.

    I think the press and the public CAN manage to understand that this is a complex machine. They can even understand that “not working” or being off schedule is not the same thing as “broken” but is rather expected given the complexities. It almost seems like CERN wants to avoid directly dealing with what they may think others will always see as bad news.

  13. #13 Soren
    March 12, 2010

    Sorry but the fact is that they will run record breaking tests for the next 18 months. The equipment is working flawlessly.

    Then they will shut down in late 2011 for about a year.

    It is not busted, neither is this earthshattering news.

    With over a year to go before planned downtime I am not quite sure what it is you would expect them to do?

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