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LHC Shut Down Again — By Baguette-Dropping Bird 478

Posted by timothy
from the first-causes dept.
Philip K Dickhead writes "Is Douglas Adams scripting the saga of sorrows facing the LHC? These time-traveling Higgs-Boson particles certainly exhibit the sign of his absurd sense of humor! Perhaps it is the Universe itself, conspiring against the revelations intimated by the operation of CERN's Large Hadron Collider? This time, it is not falling cranes, cracked magnets, liquid helium leaks or even links to Al Qaeda, that have halted man's efforts to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything. It now appears that the collider is hindered from an initial firing by a baguette, dropped by a passing bird: 'The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant overheating in parts of the accelerator. The LHC was not operational at the time of the incident, but the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine.'"
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LHC Shut Down Again — By Baguette-Dropping Bird

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  • by moorhens (564268) on Friday November 06, 2009 @05:04AM (#30003888)
    Same thing: barn swallow and red-rumped swallow nest in Europe the summer and winter in southern Africa. So it's not what the bird was but when it was that determines whether it is European or African, not that I am clever enough to claim any uncertainty involvement between birds and LHC.
  • by Ashtead (654610) on Friday November 06, 2009 @05:06AM (#30003898) Journal

    One wonders how much it would take to put some kind of roofing over the most vulnerable exterior equipment. Something like corrugated tin on a steel frame or whatever.

    Or maybe a roof over the cafeteria and the rubbish bins, so that birds can't just come and steal baguettes.

    I've never heard of such deleterious effects of a bird dropping anything on outdoor power station switchgear ... what kind of vulnerable kit is this anyways?

  • Re:le sigh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday November 06, 2009 @05:34AM (#30003988)

    ... and why, pray tell, was such apparently critical equipment not in some sort of enclosure?

    Because if it was, it would had been the roof collapsing that would had disabled it, and that would had caused a lot worse mess.

    As a side note, I think that this confirms my pet theory concerning time travel: any attempt to do it will change the past, which changes the conditions of the travel slightly, which changes the past, and so on, until the travel never occurs and the past stops changing. In other words, a spacetime where time travel happens is unstable and decays into one where it won't. Quantum uncertainty would, in this interpretation, be there to allow causality to "stretch" enough to allow such decay; a hypothethical universe without quantum uncertainty but with sentience and time travel (which is an inevitable outcome of the Theory of Relativity, which in turn is an inevitable outcome from the laws of physics being the same for all observers) would tear itself apart. You can thus deduct the Uncertainty Principle from the Anthropic Principle (we are here, so this universe must be able to support sentient life).

    I wonder if you could calculate the minimum required amount of uncertainty for spacetime to stay consistent, and how it would relate to observed/otherwise calculated values? Assume that the first singularity formed at t=0, and has been moving infinitely close to lightspeed ever since, and connects to every other time period through a wormhole, and go from there. The math is beyond me, does anyone else care to try?

  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Friday November 06, 2009 @05:41AM (#30004002) Homepage

    this theory has actually been proposed: That activating the LHC would actually destroy the universe, that is, the whole universe, even reaching back into the past. That would mean that the only possible universes are ones in which the LHC is never activated, which means that if we keep trying, implausible events will continue to occur, preventing the LHC from activating- after all, we're here now, right. That's _proof_ that the LHC will never be activated!

  • Re:Confused (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @05:46AM (#30004036)

    Your complaining might, in some very specific circumstances through a weird chain of consequences, mean the destruction of the entire planet. Wouldn't it be safer if you stopped whining?

    I'm having a bit of trouble understanding why you keep complaining when this possibility clearly exists.

  • by ColaMan (37550) on Friday November 06, 2009 @06:38AM (#30004216) Homepage Journal

    http://hcc.web.cern.ch/hcc/cryo_main/cryo_main.php?region=Sector81 [web.cern.ch]

    Pretty wild to think that a rise up to 8 kelvin is a "serious overtemp event".

    (And fancy CERN having all their engineering data online like that, open to everyone..... anyone'd think they invented the internet or something.)

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lastgoodnickname (1438821) on Friday November 06, 2009 @07:00AM (#30004282)

    Just how many of these freak accidents in a row would be necessary to provide incontrovertible proof of the "universe doensn't want us to switch LHC on" theory?

    all of them

  • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Friday November 06, 2009 @07:04AM (#30004300) Journal

    Well maybe the bird flew through the door?

    I live in a small town rather than a city. I've seen wild birds inside shops no less than... 5 times?

    According to the people I know that work in retail, it's quite common for birds to fly indoors. (Looking for things?)

  • Re:Obviously (Score:1, Interesting)

    by lastgoodnickname (1438821) on Friday November 06, 2009 @07:05AM (#30004302)
    Or, perhaps it will bring infinite good / rapture / utopia / drm free music and something evil is trying to stop it.
  • I too was pretty skeptical at first but now things are starting to get spooky.

    Face it, the odds are really small that this would happen. It is more likely you have a scientist who is very worried about bad things happening, and who has actually intelligently sabotaged the system by trial and error, ending up with the old baguette-on-the-busbar trick which must be a physics joke among French speaking countries.

    On the other hand, if the LHC is really a universe suicide machine then there must be an uncountable number of universes which died, due to the baguette hitting the wrong exterior portion of the LHC, etc.

    Particle physics is one place where extremely big or small numbers are a matter of everyday discussion I expect. Unless a perpetrator is found soon (and boy I really hope one is), I doubt this will cause consternation among the public. Maybe if there are some smart people at LHC they may be freaking out now.

    But consider what if the "running the LHC kills the Earth or maybe Everything" theory is true. First of all, almost all but a small fraction of all universes stemming from our many universes existing as of say a year ago must be extinguished by now, the odds of a bird with baguette causing a short-circuit being so small. If one more freaky incident occurs (as must happen according to the theory) then I think you will start seeing a lot of people freaking out and trying to stop the thing.

    Also, if "LHC kills Earth" is true, and "there is a multiverse built like an ever branching tree" is true, then building the LHC is an act of pruning the tree and the number of universes in which you may potentially exist. In other words, there are way less alternate histories now, so existence for us is a lot less richer according to one way of looking at it (the number of multiverses). Another way of looking at that might be, is that it might become easier or harder to do things like quantum computing, or evolution, or scientific advancement toward a singularity, assuming that some connection among the multiverses, such as gravity, exists.

  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday November 06, 2009 @07:36AM (#30004408) Journal

    It also answers the Fermi Paradox (why in an enormous Universe that's been around for a very long time, we've yet to see signs of Intelligent Life) - sufficiently advanced species are improbable because its still more probable than a sufficiently advanced species that doesn't collapse it's existence due to creating Higgs Particles. To paraphrase Donnie Darko, every advanced civilisation, lives alone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @08:38AM (#30004632)

    Overheating a LHC reactor - we've got a sub for that!

    God there sooo clever those boffins - even basic air comm has a mesh to cover the vents. So are we to trust the engineers / brains that built this device?

    To be honest I can't see that the secrets of the universe are going to be revealed by brute force - it seems quite barbaric to me but I guess there is no other way to break particles down further. MORE POWER you say - I just hope we've got enough left.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @09:10AM (#30004770) Journal

    Only if the universe cannot tolerate a paradox.

    There is no proof that the universe won't allow paradoxes, such as going back in time and shooting your grandparents before your parents are born.

    *WE* think its paradoxical, and therefore it "can't happen that way". One doesn't necessarily lead to the other - we just assume it does.

    Maybe the universe simply "doesn't give a shit" ... and that actually appears to be the case, not just from this, but from the whole "arrow of time" perspective. To someone whose frame of reference isn't constrained by a unidirectional arrow of time, paradoxes cease to be paradoxes. To them, if you go back in time and kill your grandparents before you were born, you continue to exist. No paradox, it just is what it is. It's allowed.

    It's certainly a better explanation of everything than the "infinite multiple branching worlds" theory (and gives rise to a universe where the branching worlds theory would actually appear to be true).

    and yes, you can subscribe to my newsletter explaining our baguette-flinging overlords :-)

  • by Spatial (1235392) on Friday November 06, 2009 @10:08AM (#30005236)
    I find the whole concept that we can destroy the Universe fundamentally ridiculous. Perhaps if the beam hits your ego...

    I mean do you know what we are on that scale? We're specks even compared to the miniscule star we orbit. Itself a speck inside a cloud of billions of specks, amongst billions of billions of clouds of billions of specks.

    And we can destroy all this? Heh, no.
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Friday November 06, 2009 @11:04AM (#30005740)

    Grandparent is not talking about paradoxes. Suppose that a free Higgs boson simply destroys the universe. Then the only remaining universes will be the one where boson is not created.

    It's a bit tautological as is the whole business of 'interpretations' of the quantum mechanics.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @11:55AM (#30006170) Journal

    What if the higgs only destroys *some* of the universes?

    what if the higgs just "re-arranges" the universe?

    what if the higgs just destroys itself?

    what if the higgs doesn't exist?

    Optimal outcome, with no paradox: Two Higgs walk into a bar. One destroys the bar. The other one goes back in time and destroys the other Higgs. Two Higgs walk into a bar ...

    From the point of view of the rest of the universe, the bar continues to exist. However, how many Higgs EXIT the bar? Is it

    1. None - they're caught in a loop.
    2. One - the Higgs that went back in time, and destroyed the other Higgs, and in so doing, altered its' own future
    3. Two - the Higgs that went back in time, then continued in time to meet up with its' future self, so they both left
    4. Two - the Higgs that went back in time plus the other Higgs
    5. Two - the Higgs that went back in time merges with the current-time Higgs
    6. Three - Both Higgs, plus the copy that went back in time because it doesn't "merge" with itself

    #3 and #6 both open up some interesting possibilities ... especially if you replace "Higgs" with "People". People wouldn't "merge" when their time lines rejoin. #4 "could" work, in some strange way, but you would have to allow for a universe that tolerates non-continuity (which ours does in some respects, strange as it seems at the macro level) #5 is definitely out. #2 is just boring. #1 doesn't work, if you think for a few minutes - it requires the rest of the universe to agree to stop "observing", or that time stop for the whole universe.

  • Re:le sigh... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:10PM (#30006896)

    Why? Even if you were to go in the past and change the future, that doesn't mean the future would be changed enough to prevent the travel back to the past.

    The part you quoted already answered that, but I'll reiterate:

    If you travel into the past, and end up causing any changes, then those changes cause the conditions at the point where you start your travel to be slightly different (because laws of physics treat past and future symmetrically [wikipedia.org], so each current state has not only just one possible future, but also just one possible past, so any change in the past is guaranteed to change the current state slightly). Since the conditions are different, your actions in the past will also be different. This then causes further changes to the conditions of your travel, and so forth.

    Since the period of time that forms the loop keeps on changing, it's guaranteed to eventually hit a sequence where your time travel doesn't happen. Once it does, it'll stop changing, since the loop has been eliminated.

    Another way of looking at this is to remember that, according to the Theory of Relativity, time is a property of the universe rather than something that exists independently of it. Consequently, the view of universe as a system evolving according to a set of rules is misleading. A more accurate model would be a jigsaw puzzle, with locations in space and time as the pieces and laws of physics as the rules that dictate how they can be connected together. In this view, time travel is unlikely to happen because the more neighbours a piece has, the more difficult (maybe impossible after a certain limit) it is for it to satisfy the consistency - or causality - requirements of them all.

    However, that model requires one to give up the simple notion of causality as past events influencing future ones, since which piece can be fit where in a jigsaw puzzle depends on all neighbouring pieces, including the future ones. This is actually more consistent with the laws of physics, which don't discriminate based on teh direction of time, and also used all the time by humans to try to piece together past events from evidence, but it's also somewhat counter-intuitive and easy to mistake for time travel.

    Different roads can still lead to the same destination ... or have you never heard of the expression "All roads lead to Rome."

    Different orbital paths might cross at the same point, put the objects following them have different velocities, so they'll continue on different paths.

    And all that's assuming that the universe won't tolerate what, to us, is a paradox - not a sure thing, or that causality is preserved, which is also debatable.

    True. However, please understand that universe tolerating a paradox would also logically invalidate the whole of science, including anything the LHC might find. In fact, it would likely invalidate logic itself.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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