GENEVA - Scientists switched on the world’s largest atom smasher last night for the first time since the $10 billion machine suffered a spectacular failure more than a year ago.
It took a year of repairs before beams of protons circulated late yesterday in the Large Hadron Collider for the first time since it was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault.
Circulation of the beams was a significant leap forward. The European Organization for Nuclear Research has taken the restart step by step to avoid further setbacks as it moves toward new scientific experiments - probably starting in January - regarding the makeup of matter and the universe.
Progress on restarting the machine, on the border between Switzerland and France, went faster than expected last evening and the first beam circulated in a clockwise direction around the machine about 10 p.m., said James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
“Some of the scientists had gone home and had to be called back in,’’ Gillies said.
This is an important milestone on the road toward scientific discoveries at the LHC, which are expected in 2010.