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Flip Tanedo | USLHC | USA

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Theorists gone wild: CERN-TH Christmas Party 2009

It’s that time of year again. This past Friday the CERN theory group had its annual Christmas party, featuring its unique brand of silliness: the CERN-TH Christmas play. I’ve not yet had the privilege to visit CERN, but one of my deepest physics desires is to one day be around during one of these parties. Recently the group started archiving their Christmas plays and making them available online. Here’s a summary of the 2008 play, courtesy of Jester at the Resonaances blog (curiously Jester wrote the year incorrectly).

The 2009 play can be found on the CERN Document Server. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s full of jokes about LHC media hype, pop culture, and yes, a lot of physics. The puns are packed in there rather densely, so those of you that can pick up most of the references in one viewing should consider trying out for Jeopardy. I prefer to make a game out of it so I eat a cookie for every time they mention a physicist whom I’ve met in person. Even if you don’t get any of the jokes, it’s still enjoyable to watch physicists having fun being silly.

My rough notes of the references in the play are below, after the break. (There are certainly a bunch that I’ve missed or misinterpreted.)

Scene 1: Yucatan Jones discovers an ancient Mayan template predicting the end of the world due to the LHC

  • 2012 (End of the world… at the LHC)
  • Yucatan Jones and Yucatan Jones Jr. (Indiana Jones)… last year John Ellis was a spoof of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Non-member state LHC collaborators
  • Fernando Quevedo becoming director of the ICTP (Many congrats to him… he taught me supersymmetry.)
  • Walter Wagner (who tried to litigate to stop the LHC) reference and his “50/50 odds” that such an event would happen
  • Brane collision causing the end of the world in 2012
  • Nielsen-Ninomiya (Higgs going backward in time)

Scene 2: Flash Forward

  • Poking fun at the ABC drama, Flash Forward. (I know physicists who really like this show.)
  • I think there’s a joke here about the director general, but I don’t quite get the reference. “Now that I’ve taken over from that Welsh guy, the LHC’s mine! Mine!”
  • A nice demonstration of the difference between a circulating beam and a colliding beam using tennis balls.
  • A swine flu reference. (I thought we’re supposed to call it H1N1 now?)
  • Ouch! Reference to Flash Forward as “that crap TV series.”
  • End of the world: “Sarah Palin had just been elected president!”
  • A reference to the Swedish minaret debacle
  • Tectonic plates as a reference to Austria pulling out of CERN (for a few weeks), and other CERN/EU membership issues
  • Henry’s non-call “hand of god” that killed the Irish World Cup aspirations
  • The obligatory LHC black hole joke, with the nice retort: “but we made fun of that last year, what’s new?” This black hole apparently created gravitational waves which created a tsunami.
  • A joke about the QCD running… I think they were saying heavy quark states discovered at CERN cancels the QCD renormalization, leading to the end of nuclear fusion in the sun and an impending ice age. A follow up joke that this implies that Gross, Politzer, and Wilcek must return their Nobel prize.
  • A reference to the finiteness of N=8 supergravity, a recent hot topic that (among others) Renata Kallosh has been working on. Obligatory GUT (grand unified theory) and TOE (theory of everything) jokes.
  • The “nightmare scenario” where the Higgs is completely boring and that there is no new physics Beyond the Standard Model. There’s something a little heart wrenching to hear John Ellis say “oh no… supersymmetry is wrong,” even if in jest.
  • Michael Jackson  joke (… too soon?) … then lots of physicists moon walking badly.

Scene 3: Who shall be saved? Each LHC detector is actually an arc for continued human life after the destruction of the earth. (Geez, lots of apocalyptic stuff this year, eh?)

  • Joke about the Nobel prize winners visiting CERN recently.
  • A nice swipe at string theorists not being useful. The string theorist responds, “You are cursed and you will never know whether the Riemann Hypothesis is true!” I like that Ellis starts to say “I don’t give a…”
  • A joke about the density of ATLAS versus CMS (I didn’t know that ATLAS is less dense than water. Is this true?), also referring to the cooling water leaks at CMS. “ATLAS is less dense than water and it floats… the CMS is denser than water and it’s leaking!”
  • Secretaries are spared because they’re the only truly essential people.
  • A Berlusconi joke with a girl named “SUSY”. I won’t even touch this one. I’ll leave that to Tommaso. 🙂

Scene 4: Higgs non-discovery

I laughed… I cried… I laughed even more. One day I hope to be able to witness this event in person. Bravo and brava to everyone who performed! This really made my winter.

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