The Large Hadron Collider: a Marvel of Technology

30 September 2009

by Lyndon Evans (ed), EPFL Press. Paperback ISBN 97829400222346, €45 (SFr69).


Edited by Lyn Evans, the LHC project leader, this book outlines in a well balanced manner the history, physics and technologies behind the most gigantic scientific experiment at CERN: the LHC accelerator and its detectors. The book describes the highlights of the LHC’s construction and the technologies developed and used for both the accelerator and the experiments. The 16 chapters are all written by leaders of activities within the LHC project. The timing is perfect because the book is on the shelf just in time for the anticipated start of LHC-physics data-taking.

There are thousands of people at CERN – from universities and collaborating institutions around the globe – who have accompanied the LHC project over the past two decades or joined during the construction phase. In this book they will find a superb record and detailed account of their own activities and the many aspects and challenges that their colleagues involved in the LHC construction had to face and solve. It features excellent photos that illustrate many of the ingenious technological inventions and show the detailed LHC infrastructure, components and experimental equipment installed both in the tunnel and above ground.

The interested readers will learn about the scientific questions and theory behind the LHC. The book presents in detail the scale, complexity and challenges inherent in the realization of this wonder of technology. Readers will gain an insight into the managerial and organizational aspects of long-term planning in present-day, large-scale science projects. They will learn much about superconductivity and superconducting magnets; industrial-scale cryogenic plants and cryogenics; ultra-high vacuum techniques; beam physics, injection, acceleration and dumping; as well as environmental protection and security aspects around the LHC. They will also read about the complex political processes behind the approval, funding, purchasing and construction of these enormous scientific experiments.

Colleagues involved in new, large-scale scientific projects in Europe – e.g. ITER, XFEL, FAIR, ESS – are well advised to benefit for their respective projects by reading this book. Many unforeseen problems faced during project execution, which required unconventional flexible measures to be adopted, are openly presented and discussed, with mention of the lessons to be learnt.

A significant part of the book is devoted to the description of the four major LHC experiments by their respective spokespersons and to the LHC data analysis and the Grid. The introduction is written by T S Virdee and provides a good overview of particle-detection basics, detector developments and challenges at the LHC. This section of the book is dedicated not only to the thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians involved in preparing LHC detectors worldwide but also – an interesting idea – to the agencies that funded the LHC detectors to a large extent.

In summary, this book comes at the right time and should be on the shelf of all friends of the LHC because it represents a nicely balanced record of the historical developments, technical challenges and scientific background. It is packed with many, many photos of the LHC taken during construction and assembly.

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