Yes, a weasel knocked out the Large Hadron Collider … but, no, a weasel is not a rodent

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Wikipedia (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

The worst part of this mistake – other than the pain caused to innocent weasels – is that it should have been avoided, at least here. After all, as I was typing last Friday’s post about an electrocution-sparked electrical outage at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) the question did occur to me: Is a weasel actually a rodent, as I am about to allege?

Unfortunately, I failed to act upon that inquisitive impulse and the answer to the question is no, a weasel is not a rodent. And I am hearing about it from those who know better.

Among those stepping up to correct the error via email is Bede McCall:

Thank you for a most entertaining post "Weasel Pops Large Hadron Collider." Adds a new dimension to the colloquial term "weasel" and what they can do to you if you don't pay enough attention to them.

Many years ago, as one of the newborn World Wide Web Consortium's ( Advisory Committee founders, I was at one of our tiny group's earliest meeting receptions: It was held deep underground in the LHC, due to Tim Berners-Lee's connection with CERN.

This message, however, is about an outrageous (!), perhaps even species-insulting (!!) error in your recent column: you describe a weasel (Musteloidea) as a rodent (Rodentia).  T'ain't so.  A quick bite test will confirm.

A profound apology to the hundreds of millions of now-aggrieved non-human weasels (other than the profligate homo erectus sub-subspecies of Musteloidea, in approximately equal numbers) on our planet is now required, although I can't begin to suggest an appropriate medium for doing so. ;-)

This one will have to do.

[For sale: The nuclear fallout bunker of your dreams]

R.C., another correspondent sympathetic to the weasel, writes:

I’ll keep the criticism of the article short and succinct.  Weasels are not rodents!!  Granted, you are into electronic tech, and are not into biology (though you might dabble a bit into the bionics world).  However, wouldn’t you wince if you heard biologists repeatedly say that ROM is the same thing as RAM?

Well if you put it that way …

It’s worth noting – at least to my mind – that this blog was not the only media outlet to besmirch the noble weasel by lumping it in with rats, chipmunks and pigeons (aw, c’mon, a pigeon is nothing but a flying rat, I don’t care what the biologists say).

The headline on ABC News read: “World's Largest Atom Smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, Reportedly Shut Down by Rodent.” The Sydney Morning Herald used the R-word in its story. Maine News Online tried to weasel out by using “weasel-like rodent” in its headline. Nature World News, which you might think could be held to a higher standard, offered up: “Tiny Rodent Shut Down World’s Largest, Most Powerful Particle Collider.”

No excuses for any of us, though.

Sorry, weasels.

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