In November last year the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) based outside Geneva suffered an unexpected shutdown, and the reason has only just been revealed. An enterprising stone marten scaled a fence into an electricity substation feeding the LHC and was zapped with 18,000 volts of electricity, tripping the system and bringing the world’s largest science experiment to a screeching halt.
This is not the first time a weasel has died to stop the LHC, just six months earlier another one had also caused a malfunction by chewing through a power cable. In fact, animal-induced malfunctions are not unknown at the Swiss facility. The LHC is a 27 kilometre ring of super conduction magnets buried around 100 metres under the countryside, and is used to investigate the very building blocks of existence by colliding protons and ions together. Dotted around this ring are power, support and research facilities, making access from the nearby forest relatively easy for any ambitious animal.
It just goes to show that sometimes billions of dollars of equipment can be no match for a small woodland creature. And if you were that way inclined, the particular departed weasel in question is now on display at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum.
End score - weasel: 1, CERN: 1
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