Wednesday, October 01, 2008

End of world to be determined by Swiss energy market

Professor Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University was featured this week on the (allegedly ‘anti-science’) Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s weekly Science Show, offering his take on the Large Hadron Collider, going to Mars, and the US Presidential campaign.

Inter alia Prof Krauss made the point that operation of the LHC is, in part, determined by

the cost of electricity in Geneva. So in fact they have to shut it down during the winter a lot of the time because the cost of electricity is too great.

This is true enough, according to this now rather dated document, which also gives further fascinating background on LHC operations:

According to [Pedro Martel, electrical and computing engineer for CERN], CERN must shut down the LHC during the winter months because of the high price of electricity from its sources in France and Switzerland. Additionally, the LHC is the coldest facility in the world, with cryogenic technology keeping the system cooled to almost absolute zero (-459° F). If there is a breakdown in the LHC, it takes three weeks to warm the system to the point where workers can make repairs, and another three weeks to cool it down again so research can resume.

With roughly a six-month window to operate the LHC each year, preventive maintenance and system uptime are critical. “If we have just four critical breakdowns per year, there simply will be no advanced particle physics research that year,” Martel adds. “We are literally inventing new maintenance procedures because there never has been a machine like this before.” He says they chose Datastream 7i from Datastream Systems because they believe the software can provide the scalability and flexibility to support the complicated maintenance requirements of the LHC “no matter what they are.”

Getting back to Prof Krauss, he also held forth on the ‘anti-science’ tendencies of John McCain’s US Presidential campaign, venturing that

... in the unfortunate eventuality that John McCain becomes president, one hopes that the campaign rhetoric is just rhetoric to get elected and he'll revert back to more sensible positions.

It’s quite novel, really, that Krauss should want to encourage McCain to put into practice the political philosophy of our own Rt Hon Peter ‘We’ll Change It Back’ Garrett, MP.

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