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November 6, 2009

Baguette-toting bird stalls atom smasher

Posted: 05:31 PM ET

This is too weird: A bird reportedly has dropped a "bit of baguette" onto the world's largest atom smasher, causing the machine to short out for a period of time.

It's just the latest mishap for the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, which scientists plan to use to get insight into the universe's origins. The LHC, which has a 17-mile track to circulate protons and is located underground on the French-Swiss border outside Geneva, Switzerland, is the largest particle accelerator in the world and cost about $10 billion.

The LHC booted up in September 2008, but technical problems forced it to shut down shortly after its launch. When the mystery bird reportedly dropped a piece of bread onto the particle accelerator's outdoor machinery earlier this week, the device was not turned on, according to reports, and therefore did not suffer major damage.

Had the machine been activated, the baguette incident could have caused the LHC to go into shutdown mode, the UK's The Register reports. The Register quotes Dr. Mike Lamont, a worker at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (or CERN), as saying that "a bit of baguette" had been dropped on the LHC, possibly by a bird.

A call to CERN's press office was not immediately returned.

ZDNet writes that the baguette in question did not have a chocolate filling:

The [CERN] spokesperson said the bread, which was "naked and unfilled", had caused a short circuit when dropped on an electrical installation that supplies energy to the massive experiment. While the bird was unconfirmed as the definite culprit, itĀ had beenĀ spotted beforehand near the substation carrying bread, said the spokesperson.

The avian accident has prompted a number of online parodies and jokes (this photo is my favorite). CNET UK, a CNN content partner, writes jokingly that it's clear the bird was French since it was carrying a baguette:

We're not ones for crude for national stereotyping, but the detail that the bird dropped a bit of baguette suggests this must have occurred on the French side of the LHC. It's unclear whether the bird was actually riding a bike, or indeed wearing onions and a beret.

A Discover blog exclaims: "Zut alors!"

And CrunchGear says the strange incident shows the LHC is "so abhorrent to nature that the universe is contriving to snuff it out."

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Filed under: Large Hadron Collider • science • Space • universe

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Katie   November 9th, 2009 9:12 pm ET

I think they should stop the project. It is obviously not supposed to happen since all of these mishaps continue occuring. Why do the scientists need to create a catastrophy before they realize this was a mistake. I hope we are all still around afterwards to clean up the mess they are making. WAY TO GO BIRD!!

Billy Bob   November 9th, 2009 9:39 pm ET

Sounds like" baguettage" to me.   November 9th, 2009 9:42 pm ET

i would like to know who approves tax money for such a project thats dedicated to failure. we wander why the economy is broke. do you put a TV that can be damaged with rain outdoors. NO than why put the most complexed machine that the biggest idiots of the world made to be damaged by a crumb. how stupid do they feel now. quit spending my tax dollars on useless stuff and put it to use. fix the streets and buy stuff everyone can prosper off of. i feel us people of the USA need to come together and not take this anymore. its gone way to far. we spend way to much on ignorant projects with a gaurenteed failure rate. as long as we sit here and do nothing they (government) will continur to spend our money like this!

Paul King   November 9th, 2009 10:31 pm ET

Worlds biggest and most expensive toaster.

Kyle   November 10th, 2009 1:50 am ET

Come on. If the future really wanted to stop the LHC from being made, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

Peaches   November 10th, 2009 1:55 am ET

That bird is a terrorist!!! I sure hope they brought it to justice.

Mike   November 10th, 2009 2:57 am ET

No the amazing Obama Adiministration isnt running it an neither is that Vampire wth a shrivled black Heart DICK cheney or his Puppet G.W. But what do you expect frm the French,I didnt think the Swiss would be as carless. I juts wonder what Black Projects they will be working on. This thing should be scrapped.
Dick Cheney is the worst VP since Nixon's boy Spiro, oh I forgot that idiot Rumsfeld an Cheney were part of that AMAZING ADMINISTRATION that stole the election an let 9/11 happen, they were the worst thing to happen to this country since the Great Depression. An we have a huge deficit now, mainly because of them. The sooner Cheney dies the btr, hes as corrupt as they come, id luv to see what Big Bussiness guys an other people he met most during his time in Office. If I ever see him ill do what I can to botch slap him or toss some kind of Vegtables on him Medieval Style.

Zeus   November 10th, 2009 3:12 am ET

~QQ~ Maybe all the blackholes in the universe were created by past civilizations that built a similar particle accelerator.

Matt   November 10th, 2009 3:42 am ET

Wow, looks like we know where to find all the tin-foil hat wearing morons of the world! They are right here trying to comprehend scientific concepts FAR, FAR beyond their 2'nd grade education level, and then commenting on them with magical tales of black holes and anti-matter and 2012 and God not wanting us to know his secrets and time traveling birds coming from the future to stop the LHC!!!

If these people represent the bulk of the U.S. population, we really are doomed by this plague of stupidity.

I don't know how many times this has to be said before these people get it through their heads. The LHC will not destroy the world, no chance. Higher energy particle collisions happen all day every day when particles from the sun impact our atmosphere. The only difference is that with this machine we can WATCH the collision and learn what's happening. Nothing new is being created, it's just being observed for the first time because it's a (say it together now!) CONTROLLED EXPERIMENT!

One last thing to those people crying over how expensive this machine was to build (keep in mind it's one of, if not THE, largest and most complex machines ever built by humans!). 10 billion dollars is NOTHING! That's the cost of 10 B-2 bombers. As far as I'm concerned this machine was a great bargain when you consider that the knowledge gained could be incalculable. And I for one am glad it was built by the Europeans. Just think, if Haliburton or KBR or some other US government contractor had built it, we would have easily spent $100 Billion or more. Not to mention it probably would have electricuted a few scientists and workers as well.

Sri   November 10th, 2009 7:46 am ET

News update: Apparently the bird was trained by scientists in a rival country and was on a covert mission to sabotage this experiement. A baguette was purposely chosen so that it would look as if its the french who were behind the incident...originally it was supposed to have carried Hummus and Pita bread but that would be a dead give-away. However, the bird has been taken into custody and a cache of assorted items like baguette, italian bread, Indian Naans etc have been recovered from its hideout in a nearby tree. Police are looking for its accomplices who are supposed to be carrying "French Fries" and "bruschettas" too.

Anex   November 10th, 2009 9:21 am ET

How funny that a silly bird carrying some bread can stop a machine. Very funny. I think some people are taking this all too seriously. Quoting Nostradamus (which BTW if you're a religious person is against the Bible) and then some saying it's God.
In my opinion it is just a very funny coincidence. But that is scientists for you, they get caught up in the complicated details and tend to forget about simplistic common ones.

Concerned   November 10th, 2009 9:57 am ET

Perhaps we should consider the symbolism of the bird and the bread with respect to Christianity. I just have this gut feeling that we are meddling in something that isn't meant for us to explore. I hope to God I'm wrong and that it's just a concidence.

Keith   November 10th, 2009 10:05 am ET

It takes HUGE amounts of energy to sustain a black hole - even a super-tiny one. If the LHC does indeed succeed in creating one, it will by necessity be short-lived because it can't suck in mass fast enough to sustain itself. An atom at a time ain't gonna cut it. So, not to worry, the universe won't be destroyed. And, oh, by the way, electricity is safe, despite the antics of Thomas Edison as he traveled the country electrocuting cows in an attempt to discredit Nichola Tesla's power transmission system (alternating current), upon which all world power grids are now based.

Linda   November 10th, 2009 10:19 am ET

As one who recently has been "activated" into communication with the divine matrix, God, or whatever you interpret it as, on my 46th birthday; my blood circulation system has opened up and allowed me to see a hologram of Jesus flow into my heart from in front of my eyes, three dimensional pictures of the "feathered serpent" on and around my body, the divine feminine, Isis, a Mayan calendar disk, stars, planets, a replay of Adam and Eve, the list goes on and on. I new nothing about the Mayan history 6 months ago. As this continued to happen I started researching and found that our planet will begin to realize our ability to live extremely long lives, possibly etermal life by or around 2012. I feel like the aging process has stopped (seems to have reversed) and I am able to continue clearing the blood vessels in my body which stops the aging process. All of this relates to the folks who have 11:11 experiences, "awakening" experiences, 2012, meditation, etc... The cycle has to run its course along with the bread incident with this huge machine. For me, I have learned more in 6 months than in my entire life. So I'll continue with my cosmic awakening until I can significantly improve the lives of others with this new knowledge. (By the way, 2012 is about the 2nd coming of Christ and incredibly wonderful things for those who worry about what is happening to the world right now.)

ADV   November 10th, 2009 10:21 am ET

A computer breaks down if you get a single drop of water in the circuit...

And a bible becomes useless after a cup of coffee...

Not to bash anyone, but better use your head before posting. It'll make you look smarter. (And probably sound smarter, too.)

(Anyways, back on topic.)

Having a bird accidentally drop a piece of bread (or any kind of food, for that matter) into an outdoor machinery is not far-fetched. Small animals have been known – and observed – to make nests in most facilities with access to the outside world. You seem to have forgotten that power outages in big cities are often caused by... squirrels getting fried in power converter boxes. Why? It was trying to find a place to sleep because there aren't trees big enough for a burrow to form.

And it doesn't even have to be the machine itself that becomes vulnerable – an external power supply becomes short-circuited by a slight thunderstorm will result in the entire facility being put into maintenance mode. No one wants to run a computer in a humid room, and the same goes for any large machinery that's based on solid-state electronics. It wouldn't cost $10bn to fix it, more likely only a couple hundred bucks to get it back online again.

And – sorry, zealots of the cross – fanaticism gets your arguments nowhere. No evidence, no argument.

Dave   November 10th, 2009 10:32 am ET

aahh ignorance.
I love how people assume that machines are strong, sturdy, and impervious to something as simple as bread. We also don't know how it got in. Maybe someone was working on the outside machine and it got dropped in.
All I know is that I can touch a computer and make it worthless. This thing is FAR more complex then a computer.

Keep that in mind.

jay   November 10th, 2009 10:34 am ET


The offending baguette has tranformed into a giant mutant, rivalling japan's godzilla in its planned conquest of london.

Richard   November 10th, 2009 10:36 am ET

So lets see, we're in a time line which is leading to say, the collider firing up, however, those in the future, in our time line, are trying to stop us.Hmm, so this event has already happened ? Curious. So basically, if this line of logic is followed, then there is a future. They succeed in stopping the cataclysm and we have nothing to worry about.Duh! Or, if we are headed for certain doom, then we all perish and there is no future for anyone to send back warnings or to stop us.
Unless there is a convenient "other" dimension which has a way of seeing across to our dimension or "other" timeline and stopping us from doing what they avoided....that seems to be a lot of supposition and speculation.
As to the "bird" nonsense, ever seen a Sea Eagle catch a fish from the sea?, he has a huge wingspan and can barely fly away if the fish is big enough. A small bird I doubt very much could even pick up a Baguette let alone fly off with it, more likely this is a cover story for a clumsy worker leaving his lunch or worse either deliberately or not who knows?

Chandra   November 10th, 2009 10:38 am ET

Surprisingly, most of the observatories (perhaps including the hubble) with the most expensive and sensitive equipment are vulnerable to debris and related shutdowns and repairs.

Izzypop   November 10th, 2009 10:55 am ET

I have a bad feeling about this project!!!!

Marty   November 10th, 2009 10:55 am ET

Love to see this kind of forum for clueless people to comment on their lack of understanding and general negativity about anything that is more complicated than eating and breathing. It's a real testiment to the progress in technology though that these same people can actually get a computer turned on, read an article, and somehow even figure out how to make a comment on it. As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating!".

Simstim   November 10th, 2009 11:21 am ET

does this mean there is a new form of "Bio" Terrorism? and all it takes to shut down an operation like this is a piece of bread?
I remember when it took James Bond a full length of a movie to do that.

I agree with others, expensive as it is, and potentially dangerous, don't you think it would be underground? Protected.

I don't set my computer outside with the case wide open and hope it doesn't rain while I"m trying to find the meaning of the universe.

a-mused   November 10th, 2009 11:22 am ET

Mr. Hillman. I respect your reply.

Humans have made more than one vehicle and I can assure you from firsthand experience, the earlier vehicles outfitted with EFC/EFI and/or EMC did, in fact, shut down based on any number or combination of bad sensors, data, etc. "Limp home" mode was subsequent generations.

If you'd like to insist upon some alternative reality, that's fine as well. I'm not sure I'd want a $10B machine to "limp home". First, any secondary damage is going to be arguably a bit more expensive than the majority of parts for a ca and second, the tow back to a repair shop would be horrifically expensive if it were to break in "limp home" mode.

travis   November 10th, 2009 11:29 am ET

People always fear what they do not know. Before cars came out, they were death machines on wheels. Come on people get ahold of yourself. That being said, I have no idea why this is news yet, nothing happened and nothing was ruined.

For all those who say we should fight food and starvation, etc, etc, you are surely blind. Better yet, lets not push any limits of science and technology, that way we don't have any inovation like cellphones and satellite TV, some things that people can not live without anymore.

julie   November 10th, 2009 12:07 pm ET

Way to go God!.... teehee

James   November 10th, 2009 12:11 pm ET

It's a sign from the Powers from Above that this experiment should not take place.

LOL   November 10th, 2009 12:36 pm ET

Was this bird interrogated at Guantanamo Bay? Hi might just be a Mulsim terrorist... Can you waterboard a bird?

Rich   November 10th, 2009 1:23 pm ET

For all of you out there that think this is "playing god", dangerous, or a waste of money please try to learn a little science. You sound like fools.

Sebastian Formoso   November 10th, 2009 2:08 pm ET

All of you superstitious people get so freaked out over the LHC. Need you forget that NASA's space program is plagued by a multitude of problems and it isn't God telling them not to fly into space. It is simply a complex program with complex machinery.

Besides, we've flow to the clouds and flown to the "heavens" and found no God no pearly gates no angels...nothing but space!

The LHC will find no God and will find no heavens. It will simply find an architectural origin.

whitelightning   November 10th, 2009 2:10 pm ET

I think if IT would find anything they would keep it COVERED-UP.WOULDN'T IT BE FUNNY IF IT CREATED A HUGE "SMILY-FACE CROP CIRCLE.;-O....Then the'll make a REMAKE OF THE MOVIE THE "CHINA SYNDROME"...;-(........AND WAKE-UP THE CHINESE.;-)

drew sunderland   November 10th, 2009 2:40 pm ET

what if a panini fell into the "HC". I think we are on to something. Screw particles. The secret of life is "THE BAGUETTE" . Was there butter on "the Baquette", or was it dry. That will piss me off if it was dry.
Can we trace where the baguette came from. perhaps "olive garden". I blame "Olive Garden". On a serious note. THe "HC", should be changed to "The Baguette Collider". Thank You...

Amused   November 10th, 2009 2:58 pm ET

A thought to ponder:

If the comments on this board are anything to go by, would a black-hole swallowing this planet up really be a bad thing?

jh   November 10th, 2009 3:08 pm ET

I can't even SAY "waterboard a bird" – ten times fast.

Must've gripped the baguette by the "husk".

Thomas   November 10th, 2009 4:04 pm ET

Actually the equipment that failed last year was made in USA, although this is not a very popular statment to be heard by you. The tunnel where the equipment is instaled is enormous; is almost imposible to seal it against birds since continuously it must allow for human maintenance workers, scientist, big pieces of equipment, etc.

Jeff   November 10th, 2009 5:13 pm ET

Thank you Rich, I am so sick of hearing people make idiotic broad brush statements about "god" not wanting this to happen. If you are going to comment on something like this please check your fairy tales at the door.

kelly   November 10th, 2009 7:13 pm ET

I truly wish Douglas Adams was alive to see this. . . he couldn't have written it any better!

Zebulon   November 10th, 2009 7:43 pm ET

I used to think that we were intelligent enough as a species to be able to try to understand the secrets of the Universe, but after reading most of the comments on this thread, I've changed my mind.

Mrhill   November 10th, 2009 10:21 pm ET

Sounds like burnt toast to me.

Matt   November 11th, 2009 1:05 am ET

The sheer ignorance on display here would be fascinating if it weren't coming from real people. The machine is located UNDERGROUND. The bird was able to get in. It's not air tight people. Also, yes a bread crumb can cause a problem on such a machine. This isn't your Ford Pinto here. There is precision at work. I see the humor in it, but the notion that this incident means it's a failure or shouldn't be run is ludicrous.

Mark C   November 11th, 2009 1:06 am ET

*** If it wasn't damaged and nothing happened why report it?!? ***

So assorted imbeciles here who couldn't pass middle-school earth science, or set the correct time on their DVD player to save their lives can make stupid comments, apparently.

Scott Guthrie   November 11th, 2009 1:12 am ET

Well we are advancing. one of the earliest computers was shut down by a large moth. Now it takes a bird doing a bombing run.

Faraz   November 11th, 2009 1:14 am ET

It'd second what Rich said above. Frankly it's depressing to read one stupid comment after another. None of you people with "common sense" have any idea about the nature of the incident, or know anything about how complex this thing is, or have any appreciation about how science works and what it takes to bring new ideas to life. If it wasn't for these "geeks" and their "wasteful" experiments you'd all still be sitting in a cold dark cave fighting over a crumb of bread.

Henry   November 11th, 2009 2:26 am ET

Someone said a piece of bread cannot cause a short. That's not true. When you are dealing with millions of volts of electricity, even several inches of rubber will conduct the power.... so the more power you play with the more careful you have to be.

Mike   November 11th, 2009 3:29 am ET

Find something else to invest in. If every place had a solar panel on it, it'd sure help the energy crisis, spend the billions on helping people afford that instead. I'd like to know secrets too but obviously this thing is to sensitive for the technology we have.

Eye Thought   November 11th, 2009 3:46 am ET

These are some funny comments. But actually the fact that the machine shut down–from a non-conformal event–should be at least considered smart. It shows it will shutdown if anything out of spec occurs which in my mind is a good thing.

While it is nice to laugh at the circumstance( and did I laugh) THE greater picture is that the machine behaved as it was suppose to.

The scale of interference is irrelevant, be it a bomb or a plane or (laughably) a piece of bread dropping "outdoor machinery" that is certainly better than the device ignoring anomalies altogether.

Also a machine can't discern threats of scale only that if whatever it was design to do if that function is hindered by anything its reaction (for safety reasons) is to simply not perform. The only expense is human desire to get on with the experiment, which is frustrating, costly and time consuming.

I'm surprised actually any engineer on here would consider LHC behavior as short sight on designers part.

a-mused   November 11th, 2009 8:57 am ET

Eye Thought – minor correction. The machine wasn't running at the time, so it was not shut down by the event. The original (non-event) article states that if the machine *were* running, it would have brought into shutdown mode.

That's the really funny part here. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. Granted, we did get to observe Ranticus nutbagii in their native habitat, in a frenzied state. That's always good for a laugh. Ok, so it's more of a pity giggle, but still.

Eye Thought   November 11th, 2009 11:10 am ET

a-mused--Yep just re-read the article. (tumble weed blows by)

Nothing happened.

This is is right up there with those science shows detailing how the earth will be destroyed and the narrator says "oh nothing will actually happen for 5 billion years."

-And in other news the NY Yankees could possibly reach 30 World Series Titles.

whitelightning   November 11th, 2009 4:30 pm ET


zim   November 12th, 2009 11:30 am ET


Gene   November 12th, 2009 5:42 pm ET

C'mon, people, nobody really believes the search for the Higgs boson constitutes a imminent threat to the universe. Or that it's useless science. Quite the contrary. As Jacob Bronowski has said, "Physics in the twentieth century is an immortal work."

It's just that, with all the dour literalists out there, all you have to do is begin a simple declarative sentence like "This is clearly God's way of showing ..." and it's like poking a Tasmanian Devil with a stick.

Who wouldn't enjoy that?

Little Morning Star   November 12th, 2009 8:00 pm ET

It is the Large Hadron Collider that failed at a previous startup
not the one in America. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN, Geneva suffered light damage on September 19, 2008 when one of the giant superconducting magnets that guide the protons failed during a test. A large amount of helium, which is used to cool the magnets to 1.9 Kelvin (-271C; -456F) leaked into the collider tunnel. Several mishaps, including the failure of a 30 ton electrical transformer, have slowed LHC's progress since the initial start-up on September 10, 2008. The laboratory said in a statement that an electrical connection between the magnets had melted because of the high The laboratory said in a statement that an electrical connection between the magnets had melted because of the high current. And so it goes. A few billion down the drain and for what
higher purpose!

Little Morning Star   November 14th, 2009 1:22 pm ET

If it wasn't damaged and nothing happened then why report it? Well apparently most of those who have heard about this incident, did not read the Time Magazine article regarding this matter.,8599,1937370,00.html

An excerpt is here:

Sometime on Nov. 3, the supercooled magnets in sector 81 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), outside Geneva, began to dangerously overheat. Scientists rushed to diagnose the problem, since the particle accelerator has to maintain a temperature colder than deep space in order to work. The culprit? "A bit of baguette," says Mike Lamont of the control center of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which built and maintains the LHC. Apparently, a passing bird may have dropped the chunk of bread on an electrical substation above the accelerator, causing a power cut. The baguette was removed, power to the cryogenic system was restored and within a few days the magnets returned to their supercool temperatures.


What exactly would the outcome be if it dangerously overheated
and power to the cryogenic system could not be restored??

What is being done to prevent such simplistic interference
of nature or man from happening again?

J Gray   November 17th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

Will it ever do its Job of Smashing Atoms.

I want this thing to work. Because it would drown out the people thinking it would cause a Black Hole that would kill us all.

This thing is really cool. I would love to work there.

DanDan   November 19th, 2009 7:45 am ET

In the unlikely event that there is a god then this must be his way of saying "You idiots, what have I told you about dividing by zero?!"

Doc   November 19th, 2009 9:47 am ET

seems to me that if a bird carrying bread could halt a process years in the making and worth millions of dollars then maybe we are overlooking a slight security issue...

bernadine   November 19th, 2009 3:02 pm ET

I do not understand why for so many brilliant, visionary people gathered to build this humongous machine and station, but no one have foreseen this simple incident. I mean where is their vision? Somebody should have thought that those exposed electrical components could potentially cause big problems and should have done something about it.
In other simple words, I doubt very much if these "scientists" really know that they are doing.

a-mused   November 20th, 2009 9:31 am ET


If you have such doubts, you're obviously as, if not more, well informed than the scientists and engineers behind the LHC. Please, without delay, dial them and demand to be hired so you may fix these "simple" incidents.

Little Morning Star   December 10th, 2009 11:40 pm ET

December 7th, 2009 8:56 pm ET

Voice of Reason said:
I hate people... Seriously I was having such a great day until I stopped by.

-Perhaps then, Voice of Reason, you prefer the birds?

Impotence Remedy   December 16th, 2010 5:01 am ET

hinduism is a good religion, my father is hindu and also my mother '~:

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