- Thomson Reuters
The largest and most powerful atom smasher on the planet has been taken offline. And it’s all thanks to a little weasel.
According to internal documents, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a 27-kilometer underground ring used to collide particles at nearly the speed of light, is experiencing some issues.
“I can confirm that we had some issues overnight with electrical trouble,” CERN spokesperson Arnaud Marsollier told New Scientist. “We suspect it might be due to a small animal.”
The culprit, a fatally curious weasel, was zapped to a crisp after chewing on a power cable. The weasel’s tragic snack time caused a power outage throughout the LHC.
This isn’t the first time a long, furry animal has adventured into the tunnels of a powerful particle accelerator. Felicia the Ferret, who is somewhat of a low key celebrity in the physics community, was used to help physicists clean 300-foot-pipes in particle accelerators at Fermilab, a particle physics laboratory in Illinois. Felicia, it turns out, was much more lucky than the poor, furry sap at the LHC.
The mishap comes as the LHC was preparing to resume colliding protons again after a few months of action during its winter shutdown.
Physicists are eager to get their hands dirty with particle collisions after earlier LHC data hinted at the existence of a new particle.
They’re also hoping to further investigate the Higgs Boson, an elementary particle discovered at the LHC in 2012 that accompanies the Higgs Field, which is thought to give mass to the fundamental building blocks that make up the universe.
It will likely take a few days to bring the collider back online, Marsollier said, but the equipment is fine and should be easily fixed.