Way back in 2008, CERN got their Large Hadron Collider online, sparking fears of black holes and the end of the world in a large percentage of the population. The particle accelerator has been working fine ever since, and there’s no evidence of any black holes or even of people in the vicinity getting superpowers… but maybe that’s just because it never exploded.
Still, the CERN atom smasher has been in mostly a perfectly functional condition, with the exception of a few instances. The most recent of these instances involves a stray animal, as a weasel shut down the Large Hadron Collider on Thursday night by weaseling its way into it.
Weasels in atom smashers
The Large Hadron Collider shut down unexpectedly on Thursday night, to the confusion of the scientists and engineers working on it. While they had no reason to suspect foul play, they went out to investigate, expecting anything. Well, anything other than what they actually found.
As it turns out, a small weasel made its way into the particle accelerator late at night and entered the system’s transformer. This caused an electrical outage in the entire compound, but unfortunately, the little weasel didn’t survive the incident – allegedly. Alternate theories would be that a bolt of lightning struck it at that exact moment, giving birth to the fastest weasel alive.
Critters and baguettes
Strangely, this isn’t anywhere near the first incident of this type suffered by the Large Hadron Collider. Just over the past few days, the accelerator went through an unexpected vacuum leak, some electrical perturbations, and even through a “weird status” with some of the magnets.
Still, nothing tops the November 2009 incident, when an electrical short shut down the collider for a period of time. When they went to investigate, the engineers found a baguette had caused the whole thing. The accepted theory is that a bird accidentally, crossing the France-Switzerland border, dropped its lunch, as this is apparently a recurring situation in the area.
More about the LHC
The $7 billion piece of technology has yielded some very impressive results, including the confirmation of the Higgs boson particle. So it’s not that comforting to hear that this multi-billion dollar machine gets damaged by random animals so often. Although to be fair, it does take some very specific parameters to keep the enormous machine working.
Made up of a seventeen mile ring of superconductive magnets, the collider works by getting particles to travel close to the speed of light and then having them collide. These superconductive electromagnets are built from coils after coils of electric cables, and they must be chilled to a temperature colder than outer space (-456.34 degrees Fahrenheit) to keep them working properly.
Image source: Wikimedia