back to article Pop goes the weasel! Large Hadron Collider blown up by critter chomping 66kV cable

CERN's search for exotic particles has been put on hold for a couple of weeks – after a small mammal gnawed through a power cable, incinerated itself and killed current to the world's most expensive scientific instrument. According to the daily log for the Large Hadron Collider, a beech marten, a weasel-like mammal common in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have it on good authority

    That someone found what appears to be a magic wand with Sellotape holding it together, right where this happened.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You'd have thought the scientists would know not to leave an exhaust port larger than a womp rat, in large expensive equipment like that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately the power of this battlestation is just 14 TeV in the center-of-mass frame.

  3. Andy Non Silver badge
    Coat

    Alive or dead?

    But was the weasel only really alive or dead after someone looked?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alive or dead?

      Schroedinger cat experiment has a potentially unlimited number of observers. For example you observer the cat is dead while being inside a closed room yourself. You have to open the door to tell someone else the result. The result can propagate outwards from the event at most at the speed of light.

      By putting the dead weasel in the news, the information has spread around the world to a great many observers, increasing the quantum certainty that it is in fact dead.

      1. choleric

        Re: Alive or dead?

        Maybe that Monty Python sketch about the parrot should be updated to include the line: "It's waveform has collapsed."

        On second thoughts, it's fine as it is.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. frank ly

    Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

    I heard about this idea somewhere.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

      I was going to say the same thing. Even if there is only one grid in the area, with all the money they spend on the LHC and how many smart people are sitting idle when it isn't running, surely they could dangle a few tens of million or whatever it takes to get the nearest secondary grid to run a redundant line so this sort of thing can never happen again?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

        Pretty sure there is a dedicated gas turbine feeding the LHC and the computers.

        Now, shorting the whole circuit is what would be called "a random excursion", you don't know how the equipment was affected and you really want to look at everything after a microsecond break. If military greatness depended on the "always on" condition, sure, there would be dual feeds. Here, an UPS will do for the calculating machines. As for the collider, it will lose its rapidly circulating set of hadrons or lead ions in a jiffy. I know there is a "beam dump" made from a large block of carbon - but I don't see how the beam can even be safely diverted into that if there is a power outage?

      2. Snafu1

        Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

        IIRC - I may well be wrong! - that ~35KV is for the distribution of a small village (ie the wonks' living quarters etc). Approx double that would be needed for powering up the photon generator, or WHY. Plus this scientific village is fairly isolated..

        So at huge expense (that sci can't afford) you lay a redundant cable from the 'nearest grid' to enable you to shut down that grid as well due to oversupply, occasionally & with 0 warning?

        I'm sure the assorted resident wonks (including our beloved Brian of the floppy hair) are frustrated that their experiments may be delayed, but I'm equally sure that they can apply their time to theoreticals or data analysis in the meantime..

        1. Killing Time

          Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

          RE 'IIRC - I may well be wrong! - that ~35KV is for the distribution of a small village'

          I am afraid you are. You are confusing potential difference (volts) with power (watts).

          The transmission voltage is selected depending upon distance from the generation source with respect to power requirement. The more power you require further from the generation source, as a rule of thumb, the higher the transmission voltage as it reduces the transmission current and conductor cross section requirements and therefore the losses.

          I would expect the CERN installation power requirements to be in the multi megawatt range.

          1. choleric

            Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

            > Dual Redundant Power Feeds

            I think that's what made the idea so attractive to the Doc Marten too, if one ran out there was always the other cable to chew on. Talk about a high energy breakfast.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dual Redundant Power Feeds?

            > I would expect the CERN installation power requirements to be in the multi megawatt range

            For the sort of stuff they do there, I think it's about 1.21 jigawatts

  5. TitterYeNot
    Coat

    Half a pound of tupenny rice...

    I really do have to apologise to people with taste and a nice sense of humour before saying this, but I can't help thinking that with an alleged 66kV involved, this really was a case of 'Pop goes the Weasel'...

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Half a pound of tupenny rice...

      I'm more worried about him surviving in the tunnel and developing super powers, from the radiation.

      Is it a furry bird??

      Is it a hairy train??

      NO!!

      It's SUPER WEASEL !!

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Half a pound of tupenny rice...

        "It's SUPER WEASEL !!"

        Dr. Weasel Manhattan?

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Half a pound of tupenny rice...

      No, it was one of those pan-dimensional people, only this one was a member of a rebel group trying to stop us from finding the question to the answer 42...

      1. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        42

        I'll bet the mice were furious.

        Is Guildford still still here, by the way?

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Half a pound of tupenny rice...

      Having had the pleasure of pissing about with these sorts of voltages I can guarantee you it didnt go pop. Think more 'Fucking LOUD bang' which kind of screws up the poem too.

  6. Ilmarinen
    Coat

    Veezels

    Was told by a German colleague that the nasty little critters also chew through brake pipes of your car in the time it takes you to get your shopping. Had actually seen one sneak under a car and emerge shortly afterwards (presumably laughing evilly to itself).

    Our native UK stoats are of course stoatily different in their habits and never attempt such sabotage.

    1. BugabooSue
      Devil

      Re: Veezels

      "Our native UK stoats are of course stoatily different in their habits and never attempt such sabotage."

      No, over here it is the bastard rabbits that do the chewing!!

      Many moons ago, when I used to be involved in trialling equipment for the the MOD out in Sunny Essex, we were caught out one night with three power outages on some equipment that was stationed about 400m downrange from our position. All happened in the space of about 15 minutes - It seems that Thumper, and a few of his mates, had had taken it upon themselves to make an impromptu midnight snack of the three mains cables supplying the kit under test.

      There was a LOT of damage done to the cables, but we only found only two of the critters - Thumper, who'd had his teeth blown out by the 415V searing through his gnashers, and his friend Bobtail who had been munching on Cable-2. Bobtail looked completely untouched, except he was lying about 3 metres away from Cable-2... but was sans eyes! The cables had been ripped to bits over about two hundred meters. They were not armoured - we hadn't realised there was a need - we usually ran the trials in the daytime...

      The mess near the Cable-3 was a LOT worse. Apparently, Brer Fox had turned up after the last of the power went out, and had helped himself to a brace of flash-broiled coney (multiple flash-over marks along the cable pointed to more than one cooked bunny).

      1. Brer Fox is a terribly terribly mess eater (Either that, or the bunnies had exploded).

      2. Cables were soon put up on metre-high stakes when running a night trial (and no, we never did buy decent cables!).

      3. Hungry rabbits are bastards that eat cheap MOD-supplied rubber-sheathed cables! (Yes, this was last millennium, but the cables were still in use in the late '90s!!)

      Lessons learnt. (Icon = Killer Bunnies From Hell!) :D

      1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge

        Re: Veezels

        Soooooo........

        TL;DR - Night of the Lepus? (Ask IMDb)

      2. PNGuinn
        Joke

        Re: Veezels

        Since those Exxex* nights were so sunny why the hell didn't you keep a decent lookout??

        * Got to find a way to beat those elReg pr0n filters.

      3. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Veezels

        Many moons ago, when I used to be involved in trialling equipment for the the MOD out in Sunny Essex, we were caught out one night with three power outages on some equipment that was stationed about 400m downrange from our position.

        Shoeburyness, by any chance?

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Veezels

        Lessons learnt. (Icon = Killer Bunnies From Hell!) :D

        This one?

    2. regadpellagru

      Re: Veezels

      "Was told by a German colleague that the nasty little critters also chew through brake pipes of your car in the time it takes you to get your shopping. Had actually seen one sneak under a car and emerge shortly afterwards (presumably laughing evilly to itself)."

      This actually happens, with mice, and other critters, but only with car manufactured by utter morons that think it is a jolly good idea to have cable trays and other parts of the car, made out of cereals.

      What can possibly go wrong ?

  7. DougS Silver badge

    Trump

    Don't worry, he's on the case. He's going to build a wall around the transformers and make the critters pay for it!

  8. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    We need video. Nothing funnier than exploding weasels.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      I have some footage of exploding ISIS guys. It's in the same ballpark...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weird Al had the solution

    Put on 'yer boots, it's weasel stompin day!

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I guess the mice don't have all the answers....

    Do the weasels know something about the universe that rest of don't know? Maybe the weasel needs to be praised since his death may have prevented the destruction of the universe for the next two weeks.

  11. Pomgolian
    Joke

    Was it a Weasel or in fact a Stoat?

    It can be difficult to tell. Here's a handy tip:

    A stoat is weasily recognised, but a weasel is stoatally different.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twelve Monkeys....or Weasels

    perhaps the weasel was sent from the future to cripple the collider to prevent a future apocalypse......or have i been watching too much Star Trek?

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Twelve Monkeys....or Weasels

      He was trying to alter the course of the ribbon....

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Go

    Such sabotage is intolerable!

    We need to ferret out the dirty rats serving as moles in the CERN organization! I won't badger you too much, but we don't want to be mousey about mounting a stoat defense of such an important facility! For starters, there otter be safeguards protecting high vole-tage equipment!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Such sabotage is intolerable!

      Okay, have you any plans for this? Mother nature has no conCERN for your weasel words!

    2. Pomgolian
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Such sabotage is intolerable!

      New keyboard required - I'll invoice you now. Ger bill is in the post.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Such sabotage is intolerable!

        Ger bill is in the post.

        To be chewed by a mouse?

  14. raving angry loony

    Assumptions...

    I heard a weasel shut the thing down, and the first thing that came to mind was a sales manager.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Assumptions...

      Strange, David Cameron. came to my mind.

  15. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    A beech marten

    They knew exactly what kind of an animal chewed through the 66kV line. It's amazing what those scientists can deduce from nothing more than smashed particles.

    1. PNGuinn
      Joke

      ... can deduce from nothing more than smashed particles.

      Of weasel teeth??

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually....

    I live about 2km from the LHC and can testify from experience about the local wildlife.

    First of all, nights are cold here. Second, the little buggers like to stay warm. Third, they are highly territorial and have very sharp teeth.

    When one decides to nest in your warm engine compartment on a cold spring evening and a second one decides to move in, the two mammals do not fight with each other directly. Instead, they thrash about wildly and bite through anything within reach, usually the nearest spark plug leads.

    My current vehicle is diesel, and maintenance costs are now considerably reduced. I suspect CERN's repair bill will be much higher than mine ever were however.

    Oh, and did I forget to mention that the little bastards are a protected species?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Actually....

      I live about 2km from the LHC

      I had so much hope at the start of that sentence that it would end "and I clearly heard the weasel explode".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Actually....

      My current vehicle is diesel, and maintenance costs are now considerably reduced

      Is that because the diesel has less cable, or because it's an older VW and kills the critters with its emissions?

      :)

  17. Blofeld's Cat

    Zap!

    Any piece of electrical equipment in a rural setting is liable to become home to the local fauna as it is often the only warm, dry spot for miles around.

    A standard 20mm hole is more than sufficient space for entry, and the little buggers are happy to rip out or chew up seals, grommets, cables and plastic plugs to get through.

    A colleague used to maintain the matrix signs on UK motorways, and one of the most common causes of failure is something (briefly) setting up home inside the PSU. Apparently the odour of carbonised fauna is unmistakable.

  18. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Re. Zap!

    Add house mice to that list, namely Mus musculus. These little balls of fluff get *everywhere* including inside microwave ovens. I once found one with its head wedged between the L and N connector on the input PCB, explaining why the mains kept tripping.

    Also they have a nasty habit of gnawing power cables and have been responsible for many unexplained fires.

  19. David Roberts Silver badge
    Coat

    Beech Marten?

    Presumably a Pine Marten on holiday?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beech Marten?

      Whatever it is, it's an ex-Marten now… might as well be pining for the fjords!

  20. Slx

    This is why I don't fear Skynet.

    It'll be some big arrogant highly intellectual AI system then one of its data centres will be taken out by a birds nesting and taking dumps in its cooling systems or wasps will move into its air vents.

    Or some kind of extremophile organism will figure out how to munch circuits.

    Biology is ruthless and loves warm, nutrient rich places to hang out.

    Bacteria, fungus and moss could probably take out any AI once they got the hang of it.

    Think of it like a fluffy, feathery, cute 3.7 billion year old version of the Borg ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The AI will not be a sitting mainframe. More likely an ever-reconfiguring organized mass, like a large bioblob with a fearsome immune system, and likely to inhabit deep Maginot-like caves, separated into temporarily autonomous physical units for redundancy.

      Death will come from accumulation of learned stuff polluting the pristine logic of the newborn only ...

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "The AI will not be a sitting mainframe."

        Damn right. It will be in the always-on network of IoT crap. Distributed computing on a global scale. And we won't be able to unplug or disconnect enough of them at any given time to disable it. Looks like we're doomed.

  21. Bill M

    Bugs vs. Weasels

    I am going to stop calling bugs bugs and start calling them weasels.

  22. Dr. G. Freeman
    Pint

    RIP Dave T. Weasel

    Poor little guy, his research wasn't going too well, but it's still a sad way to go...

    We'll be raising a few to you, wee man.

    It's a blow to Interspecies Physics research.

  23. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Please can they name a particle after him

    preferably the one that causes Murphys law to do just this sort of thing.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile on planet Zeta-B ...

    Residents of Sector 34.0 Upper Esplanade were treated to a rare meteoric event this morning, when an unidentified object breached the atmospheric barriers and embedded itself in the principal facet of the Temple of Zoar. The Planetary Defence committee identified the object as the highly carbonized remains of an oxygen-breathing rodent unknown on this planet or any of its neighbors.

    The current working theory is the creature entered a wormhole without properly aligning itself with respect to the direction of travel, resulting in a plasma-combustion of its carbon-based corpus.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually....

    It was more of wet popping sound.....Followed by a jaunty little tune

  26. tempemeaty
    Joke

    Twisty twisty...

    Maybe if there is something to this "either" or "fabric of space" thing, someone from an adjacent reality got tired of them constantly twisting it and jammed a stick in the their bicycle spokes.

    ʇı buıʇsıʍʇ doʇs ︵ヽ(`Д´)ノ︵ ǝɔɐds

  27. x 7

    its not that small. From wiki:

    " Males measure 430–590 mm in body length, while females measure 380–470 mm. The tail measures 250–320 mm in males and 230–275 mm in females. Males weigh 1.7–1.8 kg in winter and 2–2.1 kg in summer, while females weigh 1.1–1.3 kg in winter and 1.4–1.5 kg in summe"

    so small cat-sized, not mouse-sized

  28. Commswonk Silver badge

    Uncertainty about species

    Can a Black Swan event ever be caused by anything that isn't a Black Swan?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually....

    It was more of a wet popping sound followed by a jaunty tune....

  30. Flat Phillip
    Linux

    Cyber Squirrels

    Obviously this weasel is part of the Cyber Squirrel conspiracy. While they don't have a break-down of all their agent types and only list successful attacks by Squirrels, bird, raccoons etc, I'm sure it was them.

    You can find out what other successes they have had at http://cybersquirrel1.com/

    A penguin is a bird, right? (277 successful missions so far)

  31. gzuckier

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology requires a suitably large pest control budget"

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    guerrilla marketing

    Are you a passionate engineer who is at ease with powerful high voltage equipment? Are you ready to become a key player in the design, development, production, installation and commissioning of some of the largest power converters in the world? Take part!

    http://jobs.web.cern.ch/job/11871

    Resolution of the Staff Council

    - the Management does not propose to align the level of basic CERN salaries with those chosen as the basis for comparison;

    - in the new career system a large fraction of the staff will have their advancement prospects, and consequently the level of their pension, reduced with respect to the current MARS system;

    - the overall reduction of the advancement budget will have a negative impact on the contributions to the CERN Health Insurance System (CHIS);

    http://cds.cern.ch/journal/CERNBulletin/2015/46/Staff%20Association/2063669?ln=en

    And a warning to non-western members:

    "The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y) [where Y>X]

    source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

    ISBN: 9290831693 cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

  33. W4YBO

    I once had a transmitter knocked off the air by a copperhead trying to warm itself atop a 24,000 volt transformer. It was about chest high, and I was on my knees when I removed the access panel. I stood up like a ninja.

  34. Rombizio

    I once saw a dead person that was hit by a 6 Kilo-Volt power cable at a train track.

    The limbs of the body I saw were missing and the body itself was completely black. The weasel probably turned into a small lump of coal with 66 kilo-volt cable. Not to sound morbid at all, it is just something I experienced that fit the story.

  35. Joefish
    Coat

    Must-e-lid be left off the power supply all the time?

    Or will that just make ferr-et it to get 'otter?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019