It seems the frequency of - 'Vendor 'X' IT hardware installed at CERN's large hadron collider' press releases has cooled somewhat over the months since Sneak last reported - rather like the superconducting circuits being used to deliver the magnetic fields needed for CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to dig out that rare beastie, the Higgs Boson or 'God Particle' as it has become known.
Anybody reading about LHC will usually be only a sentence away from a superlative - as in - "The LHC is the world's largest cryogenic facility". Any mention of cryogenics nowadays means superconducting circuitry, which means using a lot of liquid helium to cool said circuitry. At LHC, 96 tonnes of liquid helium is needed to maintain the 1.9K temperature required for superconductors, to - well, superconduct, and provide those important magnetic fields for the LHC to collide exotic particles together in CERN's search for glory.
That temperature of 1.9K, on the centigrade scale, is -271 degrees C, quite nippy - in fact another two degrees gets you to the ultimate in nippiness - absolute zero. You can see how cool the experiments at LHC are - online - here ...
One of the problems with liquid helium is that the damned stuff keeps evaporating, and the levels have to be topped up now and again. In fact there are scenarios where the helium evaporates on a lot quicker timescale than normal. This happens when the superconducting wires loose those superconducting properties and effectively become resistors, rapidly heating up, causing the helium to expand explosively, in what's known as a 'catastrophic quench.'
Sneak originally envisaged staff at the LHC suffocating helplessly after a 'quench', whilst shouting, "Help!", in Mickey Mouse-like high pitched voices. However, LHC has quench detection and protection schemes, besides which magnets like these are manually 'quenched' just to check the cryogenic gas venting systems work properly. Of course if the venting fails ..... well, even then it looks highly unlikely that mass Mickey Mouse impersonations would be taking place, although there have been suggestions that a big enough quench in large superconducting magnets like these, could cause the air to liquefy and 'rain out'. Nice - well, I suppose it's less dangerous than a mini-black hole turning up anyway.
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