Size does matter for construction folks who, by nature, like telling tall tales about how their project is the world’s tallest, longest or deepest. But the wildest reason ever given for a project malfunctioning has to be that offered for the shower of sparks and released cloud of super-cold helium when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was switched on last year in Switzerland: Some physicists believed a theoretical subatomic-particle called the Higgs boson (also known as the God particle), which scientists hope to create with the collider, would be so catastrophic to nature that its effects would ripple back in time and stop the machine before it could produce one. On the positive side, physicists hope the particle will explain why matter has mass. Higgs boson is the last particle in the Standard Model of physics that has not been observed.
Rather than time travel, the actual cause of the shutdown on Sept. 10, 2008, was a short circuit between two of the 9,300 large superconducting magnets within hours of operation. The force of the malfunction ripped them from their mountings and caused the loss of about one tonne of liquid helium. The magnets are cooled to minus 271.3° C, or 2° C above absolute zero, which is colder than interstellar space.