Felicia the Diaper-Wearing Ferret Saves the Day

In the late 1960s, National Accelerator Laboratory (NAL) was waiting on the completion of a particle accelerator. While the miles-long stainless steel tube was successfully pieced together on schedule — and within the $250 million budget — its operators soon ran into trouble: the thing wouldn’t start. Inside the ring-shaped, 200-billion-electron-volt particle accelerator was a gap about the size of a tennis ball from which air was pumped out to ensure that the particles being flung through it didn’t meet any obstacles. The team was puzzled as to what the source of the holdup was, and being inconveniently human-sized meant they couldn’t simply go in and take a look. Enter Felicia the ferret. They decided that a ferret would fit nicely into a tennis ball-size hole and would have no qualms about following a man-made burrow into the unknown. While it was a cheap solution — Felicia cost just $35 — it did pose its own problems in the form of droppings. The idea of giving Felicia a laxative was floated, but in the end they settled on putting a diaper on her instead. All dressed up with only one place to go, Felicia was sent on her merry way into the 4-mile-long tunnel. She came out the other end tired, but in good health. Unfortunately, her recon mission failed to turn up any blockages, so it was back to the drawing board. Scientists believed that the stability of the orbit had been compromised, causing particles to crash into the tube’s walls before they were able to complete a circuit. Fortunately, Felicia wasn’t needed to fix it and was allowed to retire as a laboratory pet and mascot.