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Geek Trivia: What outside group forces the Large Hadron Collider to shut down every winter?

The Large Hadron Collider answers to an agency that forces the installation to shut down for over three weeks every winter -- and for a reason most don't expect.

The Large Hadron Collider is arguably the world's most buzzworthy scientific instrument these days. (Sorry, Hubble Space Telescope; it was a good run.) Don't believe me? Consider, then, that the Large Hadron Collider was a central plot device in both the prose and screen versions of Dan Brown's Angels & Demons and Robert J. Sawyer's FlashForward. The Large Hadron Collider has also enjoyed guest spots in The Big Bang Theory and the Scribblenauts video game. Still not convinced?

The Large Hadron Collider has its own rap anthem. Show me another particle accelerator — or any major scientific installation — that has moved its constituents to immortalize it in hip hop form.

Granted, when you're searching for the hyperbolized "God Particle" — AKA the Higgs Boson — you can expect a certain amount of mainstream attention. An $8 billion scientific instrument built in a man-made cavern beneath two countries for the explicit purpose of slamming subatomic particles together at velocities near the speed of light also demands a fair amount of street cred, regardless of what it's looking for. Above all, being accused of potentially destroying the planet, if not the universe, does garner the press's attention. Getting sued over those same fears helps to earn the spotlight, too.

For all its hype, however, the Large Hadron Collider is still essentially a mortal instrument of mundane science. It's subject to the same material and political constraints as any other organization, which might explain why the Large Hadron Collider is answerable to an outside, non-government, non-scientific agency that forces the installation to shut down for over three weeks every winter — and for a reason most don't expect.


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About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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