by Eliezer Yudkowsky
06 November 2009
The Large Hadron Collider was
shut down yesterday by a hamster in a tutu, weary scientists
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
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 - Staying Human in an Engineered Age,
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."