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The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest device for ramming particles into each other at nearly the speed of light, has been knocked offline by a weasel.
No, not a traitor inside the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Swiss organization that operates the LHC, but an actual weasel. You know: small, cute, sharp teeth, allegedly duplicitous.
A weasel. Or possibly a marten.
The 17-mile-long collider recently ran into electrical problems, and CERN press chief Arnaud Marsollier is “pretty sure” a small animal caused the problem. While CERN initially suspected a weasel, its daily LHC briefing blamed the “severe electrical perturbation” on a “fouine” that damaged some transformer connections.
And what’s a “fouine”? It’s the French word for this little guy, typically weighing only 3 or 4 pounds.
“Not the best week for LHC!” the report notes, understatedly.
The collider was switched on again last year after a long hiatus following the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the elusive, lighter-than-expected “god particle.” LHC’s second run, now in progress, aims to shed light on even smaller particles and trace the history of the universe further back toward the Big Bang.
As long as CERN can keep local fauna from disabling the accelerator, anyway.
This isn’t even the weirdest incident in which an animal has shut down the LHC. In 2009, a mischievous bird allegedly dropped a baguette into the machine’s electric systems.
“We are in the countryside, and of course we have wild animals everywhere,” Marsollier said.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.