One small animal is apparently all it takes to shut down the Large Hadron Collider

tech projects
CERN
It’s a massive, $7 billion dollar piece of machinery, but even the Large Hadron Collider is no match for a small mammal. CERN, the organization that runs the Switzerland-based particle accelerator, reported Friday that it noticed a “severe electrical perturbation” that caused the entire system to shut down as a precaution.

The cause could not be identified when the problem was first observed in the wee hours of Friday morning, so CERN scientists sent a team to investigate. Upon arriving at the source of the electrical issue, repair workers were greeted by a gruesome discovery: the charred remains of a small animal beside a chewed-up power cable.

CERN scientists are not biologists, so the species of the mammal is not known with certainty. While early indications were that it might have been a weasel, official agency documents blame the issue on a marten, a weasel-like creature indigenous to much of Europe and Central Asia.

Martens would make sense as a culprit for damage to the LHC’s power cables. In areas where the marten population is high, these animals have been known to cause damage to cars by gnawing through tubes and cables. There is also a seasonal increase in these incidents in the spring, which is thought to be due to newborn martens exploring their surroundings and figuring out what is edible and what’s not. Note to other baby martens: LHC power cables are not a good source of nutrition.

Repairs to the machine will only take several days, but getting the collider back online is a different story. Getting everything fired up can take weeks, so it might not be until mid-May that the collider is up and running. And that’s bad news, considering important work on data surrounding the Higgs Boson continues. That will now have to wait, as will other scientific experiments.

This is not the first time a shutdown due to animal life has occurred, though. Back in 2009, a baguette that was likely dropped into the collider by a passing bird caused another short circuit. (Apparently, in Switzerland, the birds dine on baguettes.)

The LHC is in the Swiss countryside, so dealing with wildlife is part of the risk. For now, it’s not immediately clear if Swiss animals are plotting a coordinated attack on CERN to prevent humans from unlocking the secrets of the universe. A representative for the local animal population wasn’t available for comment as of press time.

Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?