Large Hadron Collider Data Skewed by Moon’s Pull

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June 8 2012 2:55 PM

Large Hadron Collider Data Skewed by Moon’s Pull

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The moon is apparently impacting ongoing experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/GettyImages

The Large Hadron Collider may be the fussiest machine ever used by the scientific community.

It shuts down for months at a time. We don’t know for sure if it will create a black hole or a Big Bang when we shoot particles through it. And now, we think the moon’s gravitational pull is messing with its experiments.

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Dr. Pauline Gagnon was conducting one of the main ongoing experiments run by the 17-mile particle accelerator recently when she and another scientist discovered fluctuations in the data they were collecting. The culprit: The nearly-full moon, which was pulling part of the giant machine on Earth, deforming the tunnel through which proton beams were shooting ever so slightly.

The good news? This giant physics project’s experiments won’t be fully disrupted, because operators are aware of the moon’s impact and can adjust. In other words, a driver’s test for a Large Hadron Collider license is a little more complicated than parallel parking.

Video produced by Jim Festante.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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