Photographer: Kim Steele/Getty Images

CERN Resumes Hunt for Dark Matter After Marten Chews Power Cable

  • Particle accelerator is searching for signs of new dimensions
  • Operations halted last month after mammal caused short circuit

Scientists at CERN resumed their search for dark matter and extra dimensions after a small weasel-like mammal nibbled through a power cable last month, causing a short circuit at the world’s largest particle accelerator.

CERN, the Geneva-based nuclear physics research center, last year found evidence that may suggest the presence of an unknown subatomic particle. While the evidence so far isn’t strong enough to rule out a statistical fluke, CERN is trying to generate six times more data in its experiments this year in an attempt to confirm or rule out the potential discovery, the institute said late yesterday in a statement.

Mea culpa marten.
Mea culpa marten.
Photographer: Jan Smit/Getty Images

The initial data, if confirmed, might point to a second Higgs boson particle or an entirely new one whose existence would imply that the universe has extra dimensions unknown to man, according to Beate Heinemann, a professor who works at CERN.

“This would be extraordinarily spectacular,” said Heinemann, who is deputy spokeswoman for an experiment called Atlas, which detected some of the initial data. Heinemann said she’s still skeptical until CERN collects enough evidence. “We’ve seen things before that later disappear.”

A marten, a small carnivore related to a weasel, was fried after chewing on a power cable last week, causing a shutdown of the particle accelerator, according to Arnaud Marsollier, a spokesman for CERN.

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