A million Russian artillery shells helped scientists discover the Higgs boson. And all over the world, remnants of World War II weapons are built into the most mysterious experiments in physics.

In the mid-1990s, physicists needed tons of a metal strong enough to withstand the massive magnetic fields of the house-sized Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of the particle detectors on the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. They settled on high-quality brass - but where would they get enough of it?