How to fix a particle accelerator.

Around the house you only need two items for carrying out necessary repairs. These are, a can of WD-40, and a roll of duct tape. Confused? OK, its like this …

  • If it moves, and it shouldn’t, you deploy the duct tape
  • It it doesn’t move, and it should, you deploy the WD-40

So that’s all you really need :-)

Ah, but does this model scale up? What if you are not at home, but instead are at work at say … Fermilab, and just happen to encounter an issue with the Tevatron particle accelerator, what then? Remember now, this is a complex multi-billion dollar machine that is about four miles in circumference and involves about a thousand superconducting magnets, which accelerate protons and antiprotons to super-sized energies. Also, these are not common magnets, they are cooled with liquid helium so that they consume only one-third of the power they would normally require. If you hit an issue, do you shut down for a week, and call in a team of specialists at considerable cost to pull it apart for repair, or do you instead get out your roll of duct tape and patch it up so that you can carry on with no outage?

And the answer is …

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