The world's largest and most powerful particle collider reportedly met its match -- in the form of a small, furry animal.
Yesterday the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) -- a superconducting machine designed to smash high-energy particle beams together at close to the speed of light -- mysteriously went off the grid. Engineers investigating what happened stumbled upon the "charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable," NPR reported.
The largest machine in the world, the LHC is part of CERN's accelerator complex near the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland.
"We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal," CERN head of press Arnaud Marsollier told NPR. He added that the animal was "a weasel, probably," though the team could not exactly tell given the state of the remains.
"We are in the countryside, and of course we have wild animals everywhere," Marsollier added.
First powered up in 2008, the collider consists of a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets with several accelerating structures that boost the energy of the particles along the way. In 2012, it was responsible for the discovery of the fundamental particle the Higgs boson -- nicknamed the "God particle" -- for which scientists François Englert and Peter W. Higgs won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics. The Higgs is a pillar of modern scientists' understanding of particle physics.
In the wake of the apparent weasel incident, the particle collider may not be fully operational until mid-May, Marsoiller told NPR.
The shutdown comes just one month after the LHC started delivering physics data for the first time in 27 months. After a more than two year period of shutdown and re-commissioning, the LHC re-started collisions in March 2016 at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV, almost double the collision energy of its original run. The LHC was supposed to run round the clock for the next three years.