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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, it had been 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!

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.

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.

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!".

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.

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.;-)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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...

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?

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