By Hamish Johnston
The “nightmare scenario” of particle physics has a new meaning thanks to a bizarre video that appears to have been made by some scientists at CERN. The video seems to have been filmed at night at CERN’s main campus in Geneva and depicts an occult ceremony in which a woman is stabbed. While the video appears to be a spoof and there is no indication that anyone was actually harmed in its making, CERN officials are rightly concerned that such violent scenes were filmed on their premises. “CERN does not condone this type of spoof, which can give rise to misunderstandings about the scientific nature of our work,” a spokesperson told Agence France-Presse.
You can watch the video and read more about the controversy in the Guardian: “Fake human sacrifice filmed at CERN, with pranking scientists suspected”.
Elsewhere in the world of particle physics, another nightmare scenario has hit the bank balance of Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek. In 2009 Wilczek bet physicist and surfer Garrett Lisi that superparticles will be discovered at the Large Hadron Collider by July 2015. Superparticles are predicted by various supersymmetry theories, which seek to describe physics beyond the Standard Model. The deadline was subsequently extended by one year, but now Wilczek has paid up because no superparticles have been found. The sum was apparently $1000 and, as a tenured professor at MIT, Wilczek can probably afford the loss. The important question is how the particle-physics community will deal with the looming nightmare scenario of not being able to see beyond the Standard Model anytime soon.
This last item in this week’s Red Folder isn’t really about physics, but is bound to be an inspiration to any physicist who has a great idea for a new product. It’s the story of how the nuclear engineer Lonnie Johnson invented the “Super Soaker” water pistol. Anyone who was a child prior to 1989 knows that water pistols were rather pathetic then compared with the high-powered arsenal that’s available today. That was the year when Johnson finally overcame a decade’s worth of fluid-dynamics and business challenges to get his product on the market.
Johnson then went on to develop the highly successful Nerf Gun. But don’t think it’s all fun and games – he has ploughed his royalties into a company that is developing new battery technologies. There’s more about Johnson on the BBC website: “Lonnie Johnson: the father of the Super Soaker”.