back to article Large Hadron Collider scuttled by birdy baguette-bomber

A bird dropping a piece of bread onto outdoor machinery has been blamed for a technical fault at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) this week which saw significant overheating in sections of the mighty particle-punisher's subterranean 27-km supercooled magnetic doughnut. According to scientists at the project, had the LHC been …


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  1. Martin Lyne

    You'd have thought..

    You'd have thought that leaving a Star Wars-esque vulnerability would be high on the "list of things not to do when designing a multi-billion euro device".

    Not to mention, one that can irradiate a massive chunk of granite.

    Large and complicated fine, contractor messes up join and liquid helium spills everywhere, bad. A piece of generic debris falling from the sky.. What happens if it rains? Hails? Badgers take up residence?

    Looking forward to seeing some results though, go LHC, go!

  2. Edwin

    Beam dump?

    Bugger that - shoot the beam into space!

    Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!

  3. this

    Murphy's Law

    The biggest and probably the most expensive machine on the planet and a random bird knocks it out? That's the sort of class-act cock-up I would create. A case of tunnel (sic) vision in the design department?

  4. snafu

    Mushroom mushroom

    You KNOW what happens if badgers take up residence.

  5. Will Shaw


    There was a theory around a while ago that the LHC might be sabotaging itself from the future by the simple expedient of ensuring that the quantum waveform of the universe always collapsed in such a way that the experiments failed. Think it was on New Scientist.

    I speculated in a comment at the time that if this were true, then the faults and accidents would become increasingly outlandish and far-fetched as efforts to get it working ramped up.

    And now a passing bird drops some bread right onto critical equipment and nobbled it again. And that was only the SECOND fault.

    Can't wait for the next one. Hope it involves blancmange. Or rodeo midgets.

  6. The elephant in the room

    How many dumps can they take?

    I'm wondering if they can dump into a dump core more than once, because it sounds like they are expecting they will need to dump more than once, and it would be very inconvenient if they had to remove 750 tons of radioactive material and install 750 more tons of unsoiled material every time they needed to take a dump.

  7. Phil Rigby

    British Rail excuse

    Sounds like the wrong kind of leaves on the line to me...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >As a result, temperatures in part of the LHC's circuit climbed to almost 8 Kelvin

    Reports of a busload of Geordie girls sunbathing in the glow are expected to be confirmed shortly by the release of video footage on youtube. If indeed proved to be true Ryanair will start regular flights between Newcastle and Geneva. After taking into account the distance between the reported destination and the actual airport Carnage UK will be offering a quicker route by means of an organised pub crawl. This will terminate at the LHC and Ferret Arms, a Watney's watery that opened recently in anticipation of such a failure.

    In other news British Rail are looking for the mole that leaked the excuse, a spokesman said the leak was highly embarrassing as it was their number one choice for the coming seasonal disruptions to rail services. Other sources said it was somewhat a relief as the use of a baguette might have stretched the credibility of the excuse a bit too far even for the British public.

  9. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    "The dump core would become extremely hot and quite radioactive"

    How radioactive? I wouldn't have thought a beam of protons would make a block of granite very radioactive for long. As I understand it, irradiating graphite with protons produces nitrogen 13, which decays by positron emission and has a half life of only ten minutes. Those positrons then pretty swiftly annihilate with all those electrons hanging around and give off a few gamma rays which get absorbed by the shielding and/or surrounding rock. Give it a day then, and that graphite should be safe enough to eat!

    I wouldn't want to be standing next to it at the time, of course...

  10. Dennis

    A bird ?

    Are you sure the baguette bomb wasn't thrown by the scaly hands of our lizard overlords?

    They don’t want us to find the secrets of black holes, hyperspace, time travel and the real nature of god.

  11. Ian 54

    Reg Readers

    Some El Reg readers were watching the temperatures online while this thing isn't even operational??? Look guys, I know some of us are sad, but seriously, get out more!

  12. Dennis
    Black Helicopters

    Baguette bomb

    Are you sure it was only bits of baguette that were found? Could this have been a suicide baker recruited by the Taleban?

  13. Number6

    Practice Run

    The birds are actually getting in some practice sessions for when they get chance to drop the bread down the ventilation shaft and onto the LHC core.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    You swine! I can't get that out of my head now :)

  15. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    Looks like that's exactly what they plan:

    Presumably the stack of yellow blocks on the right are the cores, the green blocks are the sheilding, and the crane along the top is used to move them. I'm not sure what the bicycle is for though...

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Austin Powers/Dr Evil story line

    is what it sounds like!

    If the bus bars are that critical, the obvious question is why they're not protected in some way.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge


    I dunno, are mind-numbingly huge particle accelerators susceptible to Bovine Tuberculosis?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet there is a guy running around down there...

    with a crowbar, having to solve ever more complicated puzzl...,, sorry, system problems.

    Anyone know if there is a Dr. G. Freeman on the employee list at LHC? :)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Surely you mean ther Talibun

    Im not proud of that by the way

  20. James 55
    Paris Hilton

    "almost 8 Kelvin"

    Phew, time to get out the swimming shorts/bikinis

  21. bigphil9009

    Data Pages?

    Does anyone have a link to the mentioned live data pages? Sounds might interesting to me!

  22. Steve X

    Re: shoot the beam into space!

    There's precedent for that (well, nearly).

    Tha famous Geneva fountain, the Jet d'Eau (hands up all the 40/50-somethings who immediately thought "Alexandra Bastedo"?) started life as the safety valve for the hydraulic power network that kept Geneva machines working. At 5pm, when factories shut down, the overpressure was blasted down the lake horizontally. The mounting on the quay couldn't take the strain, so someone had the bright idea of dumping the excess energy straight up. To their surprise this became a tourist attraction, visitors used to congregate just before 5pm to watch the dump (seriously!).

    When the hydraulic network was closed, the jet had become so symbolic that it was kept, then enlarged and moved to its present site.

    CERN could do some great fireworks shows if they got rid of the block of granite & just dumped the beam straight up... That would teach the baguette-bombing buzzards a lesson, too.

  23. Ben Morgan
    Thumb Up

    Gordon Freeman at the LHC


    Actually Gordon Freeman does work at the LHC as previously noted on El Reg comments:*PesdnleY89Wa1XSwTN2VJOF-MRR*27IOl5yulIJ9a4-EFM6xPdeCTe4IvZZRdFoRF1G9upzR/GordonFreemanSpottedAtCERN.jpg

  24. The Original Ash


    Isn't that radioactive already? Releases xenon gas, if I remember correctly.

    Something about Cornwall, bosses, and webbed feet... Although the latter may not be related to the former.

  25. Thommy M.
    Paris Hilton


    Oh, it is hadron, I thought it was the Large Hardon Collider

    Paris, as she knows how to deal with a large ha...on

  26. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @Steve X

    With a bit of fiddling, you could use it to write you name on the moon! You might get as far as three letters (anyone else remember that episode of The Tick?)

  27. DI_Wyman

    Baguette-bombing buzzards?

    @ Steve X

    Please pay attention!

    It was our Lizard overlords wot caused it.

  28. Andre Thenot

    New Reg unit

    I guess you need to add the "aircraft carrier underway" as a new unit of energy. :)

  29. ToddRundgren

    Know why it failed last year?

    It failed last year because, (due to time constraints, whereby the politicians needed it to be switched on in 2008), they only tested 1in10 of the magnets.

    Scary or what???

  30. Kevin Campbell

    wait just a farking minute

    You mean to tell me that the Swiss eat electrically conductive bread?!?

  31. Colin Morris


    The bird in question may have been a 'terminator' bird sent from the future by the LHC itself if some crackpot theories are to be believed.

    In fact, as the bird dropped it's payload it allegedly could be heard to squawk "Hasta la vista, Polly!"

  32. Dale Richards

    @Ed Blackshaw

    My guess is that the bicycle is for navigating the tunnels of the LHC. It would be a bloody long way to walk!

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @Ed Bradshaw

    This isn't you're simple "Carbon irradiated by protons" type of thing. These are high energy protons. What you're going to get is lots of sub-atomic, quark-on-quark strong interactions, ultimately creating a helluva lot of pions and muons, not Nitrogen.

  34. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    Turns out I don't understand it correctly then!

  35. adrianww
    Thumb Up

    Nice to see...

    ...that the massed ranks of El Reg comments are up to their usual high standard. Keep up the good work chaps - very entertaining at the end of a busy day. Especially the badgers.

    Meanwhile, just reading about all this stuff with the LHC reminds me why I used to love Physics so much at school and why, at one time, I did hope to end up working at CERN.

    Not that it ever happened, but reading about those dump caverns and thinking about the energy (and engineering) involved in all this does give me a slight, passing sadness that I didn't end up going down that particular road in life.

    Oh well, back to doing boring things that don't involve potentially catastrophic high-energy and radioactive incidents. Well, not usually anyway...

  36. TeeCee Gold badge

    This is crap, isn't it?

    ".... "dump caverns" lying a little off the main track...."

    "...become extremely hot and quite radioactive..."

    Are you really trying to say that when they take a dump it leaves a huge, steaming pile in a side room? I think I knew that.........

  37. Anonymous Coward

    I had a dump like that once......

    ... And it took more than graphite to take that radioactive stench away. The several pints of ale dealt with the quenching issue though.

  38. Paul RND*1000

    Bird bomb

    So does anyone have eyewitness reports of Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho being seen feeding the pigeons nearby?

  39. Dayjo


    This thing won't last I mean, If I can shoot womp rats in my t-16, any old bird could poo in the wrong place and screw the whole thing up.

  40. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Pointing the beams into space ...

    ... would be costly.

    There are two beams travelling in opposite directions, so you would need a pair of quarter rings to divert the beams upwards. If the beams could be curved into a tighter (cheaper) circle, then they would have been - so you are looking at quarter rings that curve 8km into the sky. That would be spectacular even without a beam dump. If these extra rings were ever used then they would emit synchrotron radiation (X-rays going out radially). Anyone standing underneath would not be pleased.

  41. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I thought

    Pions are what you get when a large crowd of pious clergy are gathered.

  42. James 107

    Number of dumps

    And no, I'm talking about the result of eating too much fondue. A beam dump is a regular occurrence, and usually will happen at the end of each fill of protons, which will last about 12 hours. When the beam quality deteriorates (due to planned collisions, lateral dispersion, parasitic collisions with remaining gas in the beam pipe etc) too far, the beam gets dumped and a new one inserted.

    So, these beam dumps are planned to last many years!

  43. Stewart Haywood

    @Baguette bomb

    If it had been the Taliban then they would have used a chapatti.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 16:52

    Pions? Every good evil machine overlord needs a few good pions!

    I for one welcome our new evil machine overlords.

  45. Hrishikesh

    The origins of said bird please!

    It is a well-known fact that a european swallow would never be able to carry a baguette.

  46. jake Silver badge

    @Kevin Campbell & a suggestion

    Kevin wonders: "You mean to tell me that the Swiss eat electrically conductive bread?"

    We all do, Kevin, given the correct energy densities.

    All: Has it occurred to any of you that the birds are living INSIDE the machine? Granted, having uncovered bus bars (even indoors) is not a good idea, but I can see how the project leaders would shave things like that out of the budget ... Bean counters are rarely in touch with the RealWorld(tm).

  47. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Aircraft Carrier? Pfft, Subaru Equivalent!

    I just read and there's a calculation for the speed a Subaru would need to be travelling to possess equivalent kinetic energy. One question: what Subaru weighs 3140 kilograms?

  48. norman


    Call The Doctor, we have a paradox machine.

    What if there can be only one Higgs-Boson?

  49. Anonymous Coward

    goes to show yet again, you just cant trust birds

    "However Dr Mike Lamont, who works at the CERN control centre and describes himself as "LHC Machine Coordinator and General Dogsbody" later confirmed that there had indeed been a problem. "

    goes to show yet again, you just cant trust birds...

    its a good job D&M the General Dogsbody are on the case though, this is apparently now to be officially called 'Operation get what Pigeon?'.

    was it one of those Dastardly Yankee birds

    you just could make it up could you :)

  50. Anonymous Coward

    @Lizard overlords

    > They don’t want us to find the secrets of black holes, hyperspace, time travel and the real nature

    > of god.

    Or they want a strangelet to form and create black hole to form and annihilate the planet ourselves. Much more convenient than coming with a fleet of constructors ships.

    Remember End Day? Good. Remember Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy? Good. Now put both of them together and throw in "budget cuts due to economic depression" as an excuse. I assume that Earth isn't the only planet hit by the recession.

  51. Arctic fox

    We are definitely doomed

    If raptors are now equipped with self-guiding baguettes we are frakked.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    One question: what Subaru weighs 3140 kilograms?

    Perhaps a Forrester with a cubed legacy in the boot?

    (cubed = crushed)

  53. David Adams


    As Weebl would say:

    Mmm Pie!

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Syupid Analogy

    As much energy as an aircraft carrier underway?

    What class of carrier? Travelling at what speed? Are we talking purely about Kinetic energy or what? Or are you including all the energy stored in, say, a Nimitz class' reactor?

    I mean how much damage would say the USS Eisenhower do if it rammed something? Surely that would depend on whether the reactor remained intact, whether all the weaponry on the planes remained safe, and all that the fuel in the aircraft didn't ignite.

    So essentially what you're saying is "quite a lot of damage, but we don't know how much"?

    And what would an aircraft carrier be doing that far inland anyway?

  55. Richard 23

    Take a Dump?

    If I was about to be rammed by an aircraft carrier, I would almost certainly take a swift involuntary dump!

  56. Cortland Richmond
    Black Helicopters

    Where'd THAT come from?

    Plans to move an aircraft carrier to the vicinity of the LHC are on hold while a canal from Lake Geneva is widened and deepened. How to get the aircraft carrier INTO Lake Geneva is being studied by the European Navigable Waterways Ministry in Brussels..

    In other news, an unexplained plague of badgers has been put down to a mysterious prevalence of baguette crumbs ...

  57. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    No need for an image, Popsi has one

    Quality :-)

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you read the link given earlier, it would be a 20,000 ton ship travelling at 11.7 knots or a 88,000 ton ship travelling at 5.6 knots. Kinetic energy only.

    I like the fact they have shown the workings!

  59. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    High Energy Physics

    "Not that it ever happened, but reading about those dump caverns and thinking about the energy (and engineering) involved in all this does give me a slight, passing sadness "

    Personally, thinking about it gives me a stiffy.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Repeat prevention?

    I noticed nothing in the article suggesting that anything was being done to prevent another interruption -- for example, some chicken wire covering the vulnerable component(s).

    Live long and prosper,


  61. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Questions questions

    Baguette - for get who dumped it, just tell me - was there mayonnaise?

    And isn't it high time for a frikkin' Playmobil reenactment of the underground tactical particle beam megadump curry baguette blasting frikkin raygun


  62. TimFreeman

    Contradictory numbers on their website

    As I write this, the chart about their magnet temperature (see is contradictory. The top one says the temperature of the warmest arc magnet is back down to 2 Kelvins, but the lower right one says the temperature of the warmest arc magnet is about 9.5 Kelvins. It almost makes sense if we assume that the numbers at the lower right are the maximum value observed over the last few weeks, but the maximum in the upper chart is around 8 Kelvins and the lower right chart says 9.5 Kelvins, so it's still not right.

  63. Scarborough Dave

    Why blame a bird!

    What is a bird doing so far under ground?

    More likely an employee with their packed lunch going a stray!

    I know blame a bird then no one is too blame!

  64. Anonymous Coward

    mighty writing-pinching unattribution

    You are being quoted without attribution, at unknown South African web site The Daily Maverick. They quote other published sources, with large legal departments, but not El Reg.

  65. Dr.

    Is the LHC Going to Test the Inflationary Theory of Many Universes?

    As reported by Kathy A. Svitil (DISCOVER Magazine, March 2002), the LHC in Geneva may turn out to be a "black hole factory". Steven Giddings (University of California) and Scott Thomas (Stanford) came up with this theory, but, according to Svitil, Giddings is not worried, since "the black holes evaporate" (by the S. Hawking's process of particle pair creation) "and the ones we might make should disappear rapidly," in 10 exp. -27 seconds. Of course, such black miniholes would not be dangerous, since their energy content doesn't increase, but what if a patch of the false vacuum of the inflationary theory of many universes would be created? A "pocket universe" would be formed, and its energy content would increase greatly by the process of inflation. According to Alan H. Guth, one of the principal authors of the inflationary theory ("The Inflationary Universe," Perseus, Reading, MA, 1997, pp. 254-269), "...a patch of false vacuum 10 exp. -26 cm across is all the recipe demands", with the mass of 10 exp. -32 solar masses or "about 25 grams, or roughly one ounce!" Withe the density of 10 exp. 80 g/cubic cm, "the time that it takes for the child universe to disconnect is 10 exp. -37 seconds." The remaining black hole would evaporate "in roughly 10 exp. -23 seconds, releasing the energy equivalent of a 500 kiloton nuclear explosion" -- or 17 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb in 1945. Of course, the energy of the accelerated protons, with positive charges, may be too low to form the false vacuum 10 exp. -26 cm across, and the evaporation time of the black holes to be produced, as calculated by Giddings, is faster (!0 exp. -27 sec.), but has anyone calculated the minimum energy needed to form a patch of the false vacuum? In summary, the LHC experiments may be a test for the veracity of the inflationary theory. At any rate, this is the first time in about 460 years of history when the LHC experiments will resemble the transmutation of elements (gold to iron, by means of RAYON POSITIF, followed by a disaster) predicted by Nostradamus in Geneva, in exactly in the same location ("Les Propheties...", Rosne, Lyon, 1557, verse IX-44)!

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