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The world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator met its match when a furry mammal caused it to go offline overnight.
The Large Hadron Collider, a machine spanning nearly 17 miles and using superconducting magnets to smash protons together at almost the speed of light, was brought to it knees by what may have been a weasel, NPR reported.
Engineers with CERN, the company that runs the world’s most powerful scientific instrument, found the charred remains of a small animal near a gnawed power cable, according to NPR.
“We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal,” says Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN.
The $7 billion particle collider in Switzerland was set to get new data on a particle that may be the cornerstone of the modern theory of particle physics, reported NPR. Researchers believe that other particles may exist, which could dramatically transform understanding of things from the laws of gravity to quantum mechanics.
All of that scientific discovery, however, will have to wait as workers try to get the machine operational again. Though repairs may only take a few days, Marsollier said “It may be mid-May” before the machine can get back to its smashing abilities.
“We are in the countryside, and of course we have wild animals everywhere,” Marsollier said, noting that it is not uncommon to encounter these situations. In fact, previous incidents with animals include one in 2009 when a bird reportedly dropped a baguette on to electrical systems causing an electrical short.
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