The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s biggest science experiment. It is arguably the world’s largest apparatus: the biggest machine in the world. The collider was built to discover the secrets of the universe. Wikipedia succinctly describes its purpose:
The LHC’s aim is to allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics, high-energy physics and in particular, to further test the properties of the Higgs boson and the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetric theories, and other unsolved questions of physics, advancing human understanding of physical laws.
The collider accomplishes this by directing two beans of high energy particles moving nearly the speed of light into each other. The round tunnel track of the collider is 27 kilometers (16 miles) in length.
Until March 2016, the LHC had been offline for a year as an army of technicians laboriously calibrated, cleansed, tested, and otherwise fixed every part of the vast array.
I mention all of this, because 5 hours ago, the collider went offline after a weasel wondered into it and was vaporized, thus knocking the whole apparatus offline.
This setback serves as a reminder that sometimes science is a particularly painstaking pursuit. The hardworking particle physicists and engineers of CERN are going to have to undertake some repairs after this unfortunate mustelid incursion. I also mention this as a reminder that the weasel family is a formidable and amazing family of organisms which I should write about more often (although at least I took some time to describe the giant otter). Look for another amazing mustelid featured here on Ferrebeekeeper next week (although we will have to wait a while for new discoveries from the world of high-energy physics).