SciTech Briefs

Magnets at CERN fail in test

The inner triplet of magnets within CERN, the world’s largest particle collider, burst during a high-pressure test on March 27, potentially resulting in its completion being delayed.

According to both CERN and Fermilab, the U.S.-based producer of the magnets, there was an imbalance in forces that had not been considered, which resulted in the magnets failing under high pressure. No staff were harmed in the accident.

The particle collider was originally scheduled to begin operation in November 2007.
However, a spokesperson said that it is too early to tell if this schedule can be maintained. Another test is scheduled for June 1. Scientists have continued to develop the Large Hadron Collider.

Among experiments scheduled to begin when CERN is operational are probes into the properties of dark matter and the origins of the universe. The tunnel, which is 17 miles long, will house particle collisions that are meant to imitate the big bang.

Source: Reuters

Tropical storms predicted for 2007

Forecasters from Colorado State University predict that 17 tropical storms, including nine hurricanes, will occur between the months of June and November. Five of these hurricanes are expected to be of at least Category 3, and wind speeds are expected to be over 110 mph.

Tropical Storm Risk, a forecaster located in London, also predicts nine hurricanes for the season, as well as up to 17 tropical storms. If the predictions hold, storms this year may rival the devastation of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused more than $80 billion in damage along the coast.

Last year, there were only 10 tropical storms, including five hurricanes; this was likely because of an El Niño system that caused more storms in the Pacific. This year, a La Niña system means that there will be more storms in the Atlantic. Researchers from Colorado State claim that there is a 74 percent probability that the U.S. will experience a major hurricane this year.

Source: Reuters

Religion may have genetic aspects

A study published by Laura Koenig in the Journal of Personality indicates that religion and selfless behavior may be a result of genetic predisposition.

No single gene was identified to influence spirituality. However, the study showed that individuals act in certain ways because of their genetic makeup. Researchers found that the correlation between altruistic and religious personalities is due to both environmental and genetic factors.

A field of science called “neurotheology” has emerged around the investigation of how the human brain processes religion and spirituality. This field studies similarities between religious practices across the globe, as well as the effect that religious activities have upon the limbic system, the part of the human brain that regulates one’s emotions and sense of well-being.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania performed the studies using brain-scanning technology.

Sources:, CNN