The Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle underground particle accelerator operated by CERN that was instrumental in the discovery of the “God Particle” (a.k.a., the Higgs boson), was shut down Friday, apparently knocked off-line by a weasel. Officials say that, oddly enough, the slinky little mammal was responsible for the suspension of operations of the $7 billion technological marvel.
The Guardian reported April 29 that the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, mysteriously shut down Friday, suddenly going off the grid. A quick investigation would uncover the cause — wiring that had been chewed through by a “fouine,” or beech marten, a member of the weasel family. But nibbling through wiring on a $7 billion device does not come without consequences: The marten did not survive the encounter with electricity.
“We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal,” Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN (French: Conseil Européen pour la Recherché Nucléaire, or European Organization for Nuclear Research), the organization that runs the particle collider near the border of Switzerland and France. said after a preliminary investigation of the animal’s remains, according to NPR. Later, an official document issued by CERN revealed that the animal was indeed a small animal, referred to a “fouine,” a local variety of marten.
As The Guardian noted, a somewhat similar shutdown of the Large Hadron Collider occurred in 2009. According to CERN officials, it is believed a bird dropped a baguette (a thin loaf of French bread) into the electrical system, causing a shutdown.
The Large Hadron Collider is expected to be off-line for at least another couple of weeks. Although repairs to the damage wrought by the tiny weasel will only take a few days to repair, the massive machine was already being prepared for its next series of experiments. As noted by The Telegraph, the accelerator has been undergoing repairs and upgrades for two years to double its power output.
When it powers back up, it is scheduled to begin smashing accelerated protons together to further its work on the Higgs boson, the particle that theoretical gives mass to matter, which was discovered in 2012. Other experiments will lean toward possibly detecting dark matter, the mysterious theoretical matter that makes up 27 percent of the universe. Once in operation, the 17-mile Large Hadron Collider is scheduled to run continuously for several years.