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LHC fever hits the UK

By Hamish Johnston

You would have to be living under a rock in the UK not to know that the Large Hadron Collider will be fired up next week at CERN in Geneva. BBC Radio 4 is dedicating an entire day of programming to the LHC (called ‘Big Bang Day’, and this is being promoted with great fervour across the corporation’s many TV and radio outlets.

This morning Chris Llewellyn Smith,former director general of CERN, was on Radio 4’s Today Programme to reassure listeners that the world will not be destroyed by a black hole — or turn into a “strange goo” — when the LHC is switched on.

Meanwhile over on Radio 5 Live, CERN physicist John Ellis was chatting about his new paper  ‘Review of the safety of LHC collisions’ with host Nicky Campbell. This is surely the first time that an article in the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics has been deemed to have the same news value as the latest exploits of Newcastle United’s ex-manager Kevin Keegan.

Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the LHC is ‘brought to you by the BBC’. In today’s Times, gossip columnist Adam Sherwin suggested that the LHC start-up date was pushed back to 10 September because BBC superstar Andrew Marr — who will be presenting live from CERN on the day — is on holiday this week. The BBC has denied exerting undue control over the world’s largest physics experiment.

Another ‘quality daily’, The Independent, ran the headline ‘It’s sex and drugs and particle physics as D:Ream star recreates the Big Bang’ earlier this week. For those too young to remember, the article refers to Brian Cox, who is sort of a Liam Gallagher of particle physics and one of the many stars that the BBC will be rolling out next week.

And leave it to The Sun to say: ‘End of the world due in nine days’ …unless Andrew Marr decides to extend his holiday, of course.

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