A comic walks into a particle accelerator lab... Cern laboratory hosts stand-up night as scientists test comedy routines

Unique collision between comedy and science in Geneva

Adam Sherwin
Thursday 29 August 2013 09:43 BST
The CERN is also home to the Large Hadron Collider tunnel; seen here is a model of the LHC in the visitor centre
The CERN is also home to the Large Hadron Collider tunnel; seen here is a model of the LHC in the visitor centre (Getty Images)

The Cern laboratory will generate a unique collision between comedy and science when the particle physics research centre in Switzerland hosts its first night of stand-up.

Six scientists will test their comedy routines at a special performance staged at the Geneva home of the Large Hadron Collider on Friday night. The stand-up show will be broadcast live on the web.

Sam Gregson, a University of Cambridge PhD student and Cern affiliated particle physicist who organised the Large Hadron Comedy night, said: “The evening is a great opportunity to enthuse people worldwide about the fantastic work going on at arguably the world's most important scientific facility through an exciting, vibrant and upcoming medium.

“The use of stand-up comedy allows scientists to engage with audiences that may not attend the usual lectures and exhibitions and helps bring cutting-edge science more into the mainstream spotlight.”

The night will be hosted by stand-up Helen Keen, from the Radio 4 programme It Is Rocket Science, and feature cabaret comic Jonny Berliner, former Chortle student finalist Pierre Novellie and Belgian comedian Lieven Scheire – all of whom will perform in English.

They will perform alongside six Cern scientists, led by Gregson, who will explain their research “through the medium of stand-up comedy”.

The evening aims to “break down the stereotypes associated with being a Cern scientist.” Webcast viewers are warned that the evening will include “adult” material.

Comedy shows like The Infinite Monkey Cage, featuring Robin Ince and Prof Brian Cox, have opened up areas of science such as particle physics to a wider audience.

Gregson, billed as “the bad boy of science”, said: “My advice to all scientists is to attempt a science comedy set based on their work. Trust me – if you can make people laugh at the same time as informing them, no other piece of sci

The event, supported by Cern and the British Council, can be watched live online via a Cern webcast from 7.30pm (CEST) on Friday.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as Cern, operates the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, designed to investigate the fundamental structure of the universe.

Last year, Cern detectors found evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, the particle linked to the mechanism that gives mass to elementary particles.

Funny (peculiar?): Jokes for scientists

1. A Higgs boson walks into a bar and asks everyone to take part in an act of penitence. “What are you doing?” asks the barman. “Giving mass.”

2. What did the proton say to the ever-grumpy electron? “Why do you have to be so negative all the time?”

3. Two atoms are walking down the street. One says to the other, “Hey! I think I lost an electron!” The other says, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m positive!”

4. Why are quantum physicists crap in bed? Because when they find the position, they can’t find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can’t find the position.

5. A Higgs boson walks into a bar. The bartender says, “What’s the matter?” The Higgs replies: “Exactly.”

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