Recently, scientists at CERN split mercury nuclei for the first time. They expected two zirconium nuclei. What they got was ruthenium and krypton.

For some of us, it’s remarkable enough that they could tell. Knowing enough about fission that this result is surprising is even more remarkable.

For the particle physics community, the gift was the surprise itself. Expected results tell researchers they’re on the right track, but unforeseen results? They can open a whole new field of inquiry. If you’re a scientist, that’s what you hope for.