Paris: One of the physics world’s most complex machines, the Large Hadron Collider, has been temporarily immobilised – by a weasel.
Little remains of the unfortunate creature, who did not survive an encounter with a high-voltage transformer at the site near Geneva in Switzerland.
Spokesman Arnaud Marsollier said the world’s largest atom smasher, the LHC, has suspended operations because the animal invaded a transformer that helps power the machine and set off an electrical outage on Thursday night.
Authorities said the incident was one of several small glitches that will delay plans to restart the collider by a few days.
Officials of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, have been gearing up for new data from the 27-kilometer (17-mile) circuit that runs underground on the Swiss-French border.
“Not the best week for LHC!” CERN’s daily summary declares.
The incident is reminiscent of a 2009 report – that made headlines around the world – of a power cut at the LHC allegedly caused by a passing bird dropping a piece of baguette.
A bulletin from CERN at the time read: “What’s more, the notion that the power cut might have been caused by a piece of bread dropped by a passing bird on the substation in question started to spread.
“A power cut suddenly became a story too good to ignore. Before you could say ‘crumbs’, the press office phones were ringing off the hook as journalists demanded to know how it could be that a piece of bread could lay low the world’s mightiest machine. Of course, no such thing had happened, and a statement was rapidly concocted.”
“To this day, we do not know what caused the power cut, but it is true that feathers and bread were found at the site. The truth about birds and baguettes is that two sectors of the LHC warmed by a few degrees while the substation was repaired, and were then cooled back to 1.9K.
“There was no damage, and no delay. Had we been running, we’d have lost a day or two’s worth of beam time, which is nothing unusual when operating a frontier research machine like the LHC. Power cuts are, of course, something that the LHC has been designed to cope with, as have all its predecessors.”