Weasel Takes Out 'Most Powerful Scientific Instrument'

It was a suicide mission
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2016 3:00 PM CDT
Weasel Takes Out 'Most Powerful Scientific Instrument'
The Large Hadron Collider was no match for a weasel.   (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, File)

Scientists with CERN, an organization that runs "the world's most powerful scientific instrument," will have to wait a bit to get back to smashing protons together after what a spokesperson said was "a weasel, probably" gnawed through a power cable overnight, NPR reports. (It's also possible it was a marten.) Bringing the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider back online may take a week or two, according to the spokesman. But, he tells New Scientist, the equipment is fine and the fix should be easy. The weasel, however, got the worst of it—engineers investigating "electrical problems" discovered the creature's charred remains near the gnawed cable. The whole incident is delaying new research on the Higgs Boson fundamental particle, as well as the hunt for other undiscovered particles that, per NPR, "could revolutionize … understanding of everything from the laws of gravity to quantum mechanics."

The spokesman tells the BBC that, as the facility is located in the countryside, such critter-related hiccups are to be expected from time to time. A 2009 power interruption, for instance, may have been caused by a bird dropping a baguette onto electrical systems. (As for that incident, CERN says, "We do not know what caused the power cut, but it is true that feathers and bread were found at the site.") And NPR recounts a 2006 incident in which raccoons made a "coordinated" attack on a particle accelerator in Illinois, before they were driven out of their "hastily made fortifications" only to launch a "counterattack." (More Switzerland stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.