The Large Hadron Collider experienced overheating problems this week after – and we’re not making this up – a bird dropped a piece of bread onto part of the machinery. According to LHC Machine Coordinator Dr Mike Lamont, “a bit of baguette on the busbars” caused temperatures in portions of the system to rise from their regular 1.9 Kelvin to almost 8 Kelvin; the LHC is not currently operational, after previous – more serious – overheating issues back in September, but scientists working on the project claim it would have merely automatically shut down had the bird bombing occurred during actual testing.
Frankly it all sounds like a bizarre Chris Morris sketch, but it’s apparently true. Had the temperatures continued to climb during operation, there’s the possibility that the superconducting niobium-titanium magnets would “quench” and become mundane, regular “warm” magnets, something that can happen when over 9.6 Kelvin. In a comment you don’t regularly get to see in the tech world, The Register’s Lewis Page describes the potential outcome of the LHC being unable to maintain the twin hadron beams as “all that energy would have to go somewhere – with results on the same scale as being rammed by an aircraft carrier”.
Still, the auto shut-down would kick in before that metaphorical aircraft carrier appeared, and the LHC project even has a failsafe “dump core” into which runaway hadrons can be diverted. Dr Lamont claims the LHC will be up and operational again in roughly three days, though we’re not sure if he’s yet received our suggestion of bio-engineering some winged-cats to protect the skies from feathered attackers.