THE letters pages have been the platform for every Tom, Dick and now Harry ('Doomed Attraction', GDN August 13) to express their opinions. Though exhausting at times, it also turns out to be a source of information. Thank you Somalatha ('There's more to us', August 10) for bringing this subject to the letters pages and Harry's response that aroused my curiosity. And thanks to the Internet, I have gathered some more information.
The Large Hadron Collider which was conceived in early 1980s by CERN Council (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) involving several nations of the world (Japan, India, Russia, Canada, the US, tunnel hosting countries France and Switzerland, etc) and spanning more than a couple of decades to complete is nothing short of a wonder and an example of team work among the contributing countries, no matter what the contribution.
It is only natural that there would be technical hiccups on the way.
As Somalatha pointed out, India's contribution ranged from hardware including mere jacks to support the LHC Magnets to the software development for the project, not to mention the contribution 'in kind' of manpower including scientists and engineers. Regarding the magnets, India supplied the Sextupole, Decapole and Octupole Magnets used in the LHC.
The following is extracted from the CERN Press office statement made by Fermilab of USA, the supplier of the magnet that failed. 'On Tuesday, March 27 2007, structural supports to a quadrupole magnet, one of an inner triplet of three focusing magnets, failed a high-pressure test in the tunnel of the LHC accelerator under construction at CERN. The force generated in the pressure test broke the supports in magnet Q1 that hold the magnets cold mass in place inside the cryostat, the magnets outer metal jacket. The support structure broke because it was not designed to withstand the amount of longitudinal force applied during the pressure test.'
In lay terms, it was an engineering oversight which damaged one of the three magnets. Any one who works in the field of science and technology will tell you that this is to be expected in a project of this nature...surprises at every step until you get it right finally!
Kudos to CERN and all nations that contributed to the LHC!