The 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable.
It is not clear what the mammal was, although it is believed to have been a weasel or a marten but if you put 4 million volts through anything it is a little difficult to tell. In fact there is an internet belief that the “weasel” was a mutated human time traveller who was sent to try and stop the latest experiment from ending the universe.
Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN said that the electrical problems were fairly certain to be caused by a small animal.
The shutdown comes as the LHC was preparing to collect new data on the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle it discovered in 2012. The Higgs is believed to endow other particles with mass, and it is considered to be a cornerstone of the modern theory of particle physics. The hope is that it will find other missing particles which create strange effects. Our guess is that they might find the Apple particle which attracts social non-entities to expensive shiny equipment in an inverse proportion to the value of the technology both in unit cost and the use to the user.
Marsollier says, scientists will have to wait while workers bring the machine back online. Repairs will take a few days, but getting the machine fully ready to smash might take another week or two. "It may be mid-May," he says.
This is not the first time that wildlife had flung itself at the LHC in a desperate bid to save space and time. In 2009 a bird is believed to have dropped a baguette onto critical electrical systems. A smaller particle accelerator in the US was shut down in 2006 by a "coordinated" attack by racoons.