Newsmaker of the year: The machine maker
From Nature News, Dec. 17, 2008
He did more than anyone to build the Large Hadron Collider. This year he saw it finished - and then break down. Geoff Brumfiel profiles the LHC's project leader, Nature's newsmaker of the year.
Lyndon Rees Evans gets up from his desk and crosses his sparsely furnished office to a shelf filled with notebooks. He pauses before choosing one and bringing it to the table. He opens it as fondly as if it were a family scrapbook, flipping through pages crowded with diagrams, budgets and the business cards of mid-level government bureaucrats. Finally he gets to what he was looking for: a photocopied drawing of a conference table. Most of the writing on the diagram is in Japanese, but around the table's edge someone has written names, including Evans's, in English. The date at the top is also in English: 2 March 1995. "This was it, this was the key meeting," he says. He points to a Japanese character written in a corner. "They even showed where the flowers were."
Most laboratory notebooks - like most family scrapbooks - don't record the place settings at meetings with Japanese parliamentarians. But this is the laboratory notebook, or rather one of many notebooks, of the largest scientific experiment ever constructed: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator at CERN, the European high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC represents a level of ambition never before seen in physics, an ambition so monumental that its realization required it to become the first truly global experimental undertaking. It consists of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of extremely powerful machinery looped round a tunnel 27 kilometres long. Much of this hardware is chilled to within two degrees of absolute zero by a liquid helium system much larger than any seen before.