Crumbs! Large Hadron Collider suffers snack-related bird mishap

A bird has bombed a bit of baguette into the Large Hadron Collider, causing the giant particle accelerator to overheat. If a marmoset drops in some Marmite, we've got ourselves breakfast

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Yet another bizarre accident has befallen the Large Hadron Collider. The enormous particle accelerator, buried deep beneath France and Switzerland, overheated when it was invaded by a piece of baguette, apparently dropped by a bird.

The Register reports that the bread entered machinery above ground. Honestly, they've spent over £3.5bn on the thing, you'd think CERN could afford a tarpaulin, or perhaps a Wendy house.

We're not ones for crude for national stereotyping, but the detail that the bird dropped a bit of baguette suggests this must have occurred on the French side of the LHC. It's unclear whether the bird was actually riding a bike, or indeed wearing onions and a beret.

The piece of bread caused the system to overheat to almost 8 Kelvin. Normal operating temperature is 1.9K. Had the LHC been turned on, this temperature spike would have shut down the system to prevent it approaching the 9.6K mark at which the niobium-titanium magnets quench, or stop superconducting. When this occurs, they revert to being ordinary magnets, turning the LHC into the world's biggest and most expensive toaster.

If the LHC was a sitcom, it would be written by Graham Linehan and it would be our favourite show. Interestingly, the head of the LHC computing-grid is one Ian Bird. Coincidence? We don't think so. Having failed to break the LHC during computer-related stress testing, conspiracy theorists may suspect Bird has turned to baked goods.

In fact, the increasingly bizarre incidents befalling the LHC are making us suspect the staff long ago realised the blessed thing wasn't going to work, and are having to come up with ever-more elaborate excuses. Our suspicions will no doubt be confirmed when Brian Cox tells New Scientist the cat ate his calculus.

Image credit: Puffin in Flight with Sandeels by Ed O'Keefe.

No idea what this LHC thing is? Watch our brilliant bluffer's guide!