Spitzit’s House

Where serious topics come to relax

CERN flips off the switch to the LHC due to “Glitch”??

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has officially announced that they have temporarily flipped the switch off for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), also known on this blog as the Big Super Colliding Muther (BSCMF), due to a “glitch”. In case you are wondering, “Glitch” is scientific terminology for “it’s broke”.

Here is the tricky part…They revved up the BSCMF on September 10th. They successfully spun some stuff this way for a while, then they successfully spun some stuff that way for a while…then something broke, and they flipped that infamous switch to turn it off just one day after turning it on. One week later, they decide to let the world know that they encountered a “glitch”.

After so much fanfare on this machine why would they wait a week to release news that it is broke only a day after turning it on? If the press hadn’t inquired on some rumors, they would probably still be keeping it a secret. I guess on some level we should be happy that they aren’t telling us about their “glitch” from inside some “doomsday” bunker and wishing us all the best of luck.

So, the BSCMF overheated or something like that. No big deal. It is bound to happen when you have mega-tons of equipment and about a billion moving parts. These scientists are smart, but they are still human and therefore aren’t perfect. They may be certain that their big science project is safe and not going to cause the end of the world, but how could they have known it was going to over heat?

“Glitches” are no big deal, right? They are just harmless little errors that occur and rarely lead to anything bad happening like nuclear meltdowns, airplane crashes, ships sinking, etc. Sure, it is rare, but it does happen on occasion, and generally when it does it is isolated to large or fairly new technology with lots of moving parts. Here are just a few examples of some of the worlds most famous “glitches”.

  • ChernobylApril 26, 1986 at 1:23:45 a.m., reactor 4 suffers a massive, catastrophic power excursion, resulting in a steam explosion, which rips the top off the reactor like a soda can, exposes the core and disperses a crap load of radioactive junk, allowing air (oxygen) to contact the super-hot core of combustible graphite moderator. The burning graphite moderator thereby increases even more the emission of radioactive particles.
  • Space Shuttle Challenger January 28, 1986 – Disintegration of the shuttle began 73 seconds into its flight after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The seal failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it filled, allowing a flare to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent attachment hardware and external fuel tank. The SRB breach flare led to the separation of the right-hand SRB and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces promptly broke up the orbiter.
  • Japan Airlines Flight 123August 12, 1985- All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died, resulting in a total of 520 deaths. About 12 minutes after takeoff, as the aircraft reached cruising altitude the rear pressure bulkhead failed. The resulting explosive decompression tore the vertical stabilizer from the aircraft and severed all four of the aircraft’s hydraulic systems. No stabilizer and no hydraulic systems pretty much means you have no control of the aircraft other than velocity of your engines. Therefore, you have several minutes at a high altitude to contemplate your life and your impending death while the plane flies around at its own volition waiting to crash into something. Many of the passengers on this flight had time to write letters to their loved ones.
  • The HindenburgMay 6, 1937 – The German rigid airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed within one minute while attempting to dock with its mooring mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board, 35 people died in addition to one fatality on the ground. No one knows for sure what caused the fire on the Hindenburg. There are some sabotage theories, but most relate to some kind of electrical spark from somewhere that caused the chain reaction. My guess is the latter and I quantify that as a “glitch” in the engineering of this gigantic flying ball of fire.

So, technology is created by humans, and humans make errors. Irregardless of how many brainy scientists check, double-check, and triple-check, when there are a million moving pieces you are never going to think of every possibility. “Glitches” happen every day that we don’t know about, and the world keeps turning. However, when it comes to giant machines that have massive power to create and destroy, then the word “glitch” is not so innocent and harmless sounding. In fact, it can be a little ominous or scary.

Do you really want to hear the pilot on your flight say “We seem to have a glitch in our landing gear, so…”? Maybe that is cool with you, but it would have me reaching for a clean pair of underwear in short order.

All I am saying is that “glitch” is no simple word to be dismissed or taken lightly at any time. It is serious business that costs companies billions and in worst case scenarios it costs lives.

As for the BSCMF, I am sure that glitches will be a normal routine in the beginning, and I really hope that it has a very long and healthy future ahead of it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that one of the glitches doesn’t cause some unforeseen chain-reaction that sucks our world down some huge cosmic toilet. That would really suck.

That’s just my opinion…and it ain’t worth much.

September 19, 2008 - Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. there is no rose without a thorn. there is no gold found in purest form.

    Comment by baisalkutty | September 21, 2008

  2. Nice euphemism.
    It’s not a glitch. It’s the destruction of billions of
    dollars, OUR money.
    CERN does have a yearly budget of 649,000,000 EUROs of money for how many years know?
    I would say: Push that money into solar power.

    regards,
    T.

    Comment by Tekknorg | September 28, 2008


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