Nov 6, 2009
The Large Hadron Collider was shut down yesterday by a hamster in a tutu, weary scientists announced.
The Large Hadron Collider is the successor to the earlier Superconducting Super Collider, which was shut down by the US House of Representatives in 1993 after 14 miles of tunnel had been constructed at a cost of $2 billion. Since its inception, the Large Hadron Collider has been plagued by construction delays, dead technicians, broken magnet supports, electrical faults, helium containment failures, vacuum leaks, birds with baguettes, terrorists, ninjas, pirates, supervillains, hurricanes, asteroids, cosmic energy storms, and a runaway train. On one occasion it was discovered that the entire 17-mile circular tunnel had been built upside-down due to a sign error in the calculations, and the whole facility had to be carefully flipped by a giant spatula.
One year ago, hopes were raised for the first time in decades when it was discovered that all the incidents up until that point had been the work of a sinister globe-spanning conspiracy of religious fanatics who, inspired by the term "God Particle", had decided that no one could ever be allowed to look upon the hypothetical Higgs boson. This discovery was widely considered to have undermined the theory that Nature abhors a sufficiently powerful particle collider. Though some found it suspicious that the Higgs boson would even have a religious cult devoted to preventing its observation, the affair did have a patina of surface plausibility - after all, a giant plot to prevent physicists from observing the Higgs boson makes around as much sense as anything else religious people do.
After the conspiracy was shut down by heroic international detectives in an operation so hugely dramatic that it would be pointless to summarize it here, the world began to wonder whether the LHC might really, really work this time around. Scientists everywhere held their breaths as the bodies were cleared out, the tunnels reconditioned, and the broken magnets replaced, all without incident. The price of large hadrons held steady on the commodities market, permitting the LHC's reservoirs to be fully stocked. Proton beams were successfully formed and circulated through the giant tunnel.
Moments before the first collision was scheduled to probe the theretofore-unachieved energy of 3.5 TeV, a hamster in a tutu materialized from nowhere at the intended collision point. The poor creature didn't even have time for a terrified squeak before the two proton beams smashed into it, releasing the equivalent energy of 724 megajoules or 173 kilograms of TNT.
The dispirited scientists of the LHC have announced that this will create a 24-month delay while tiny bits of hamster are cleaned out of the tunnels and anti-hamster-materialization fields are installed in the collider.
At the poorly attended press conference, journalists asked whether it might finally be time to give up.
"Nature's just messing with you, man," said a reporter from the New York Times. "You need to admit this isn't going to work out."
Professor Nicholas von Shnicker, project leader of the LHC, responded.
"NEVER!" shrieked von Shnicker, spittle flying from his lips and spattering on his ragged beard. "Ve vill NEVER give up! My father spent his life trying to make the LHC vork, and his father! Even if it takes a century, if it takes a thousand years or ten thousand million years, VE VILL SEE THE HIGGS BOSON IN OUR LIFETIMES!"
Prof. Kill McBibben is the author of the recently released book Enough, which proposes a new theory of the mysterious Counter-Force that prevents the LHC from operating. "It's not the Higgs boson going back in time," says Prof. McBibben, "nor is it the anthropic principle preventing a black hole from forming. We've just hit the point that we all knew was coming - that we all knew had to happen someday. We've reached the limits of human science. We are just not allowed to build colliders at higher than a certain energy, or know more than a certain amount of particle physics. This is the end of the road. We're done."