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Throwing a baguette in the works

Crusty problems for the LHC

By Michael Banks

Oh crumbs.

After talk of the Higgs boson travelling back in time and sabotaging the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN particle-physics lab, a more mundane object temporarily stopped the machine from operating on Tuesday night.

According to a note posted today on the CERN users’ pages, a piece of baguette placed in a cooling station caused a sector in the LHC to heat up by a few degrees to the bemusement of engineers.

The 27 km circumference LHC has eight sectors, each 3.3 km long. Each sector has a cooling station, or “cryoplant”, which helps the machine get down to the chilly temperature of 4.2 K.

The crusty piece of bread was found in one of the cryoplants and happened to be lying on a busbar — an electrical connection made of copper that are generally wide and flat to allow heat to dissipate more easily.

The well placed baguette then caused a short circuit in the cryogenic equipment that heated one of the sectors to around 10 K.

“The best guess is that it was dropped by a bird, either that or it was thrown out of a passing aeroplane,” a spokeswoman from CERN told the Times.

But it seems the best guess was right after all. The note on the CERN users page said that the culprit was a “bird carrying a baguette bread” and that the “bird escaped unharmed but lost its bread”.

The statement read: “The standard failsafe systems came into operation and after the cause was identified, re-cooling of the machine began and the sectors were back at operating temperature last night. The incident was similar in effect to a standard power cut, for which the machine protection systems are very well prepared.”

At least the note didn’t say that it was a bird travelling back in time with a piece of bread hellbent on sabotaging the LHC from finding the Higgs.

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  1. Hmmm, some things like that happen, huh? Just a bad day… oh well, tomorrow can be better…

  2. The machine is deeply situated and properly protected. So it is very hard for me to think of a baguette falling from a flying bird. I request authorities to make sure that this is not the “deliberate” act of a human being.

  3. robert matthews

    I’d like to echo Dileep’ point – what was a bird doing with baguette in its beak deep below the Swiss-Italian border ??? Could a Phys World reporter find out ??

  4. One piece of bread dropped on a busbar caused an entire sector to overheat? This huge machine known as LHC seems to be surprisingly fragile. It reminds me of a large and complex semiconductor chip, where one tiny defect makes the whole device inoperative.

  5. Trackback: Blog -


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