CERN’s PR department is in overdrive today, following an inexplicable prank on its grounds by a handful of researchers.
Ground security at CERN’s Switzerland headquarters, which houses the Large Hadron Collider, is now under some serious scrutiny, with officials telling the media that those involved in the staged ritual had access badges.
"These scenes were filmed on our premises but without official permission or knowledge," a CERN spokesperson told the Agence France-Presse. "CERN does not condone this type of spoof, which can give rise to misunderstandings about the scientific nature of our work."
As you can see in the footage below, filmed by an unnamed bystander, a number of figures dressed in black, hooded robes gather in front of a 2-metre-high statue of the Hindu deity Shiva, which has been on permanent display at CERN since 2004.
A women appears to lie down in front of the statue, before she is (pretend) stabbed, while the guy filming it (who was presumably in on the prank) starts swearing and freaking out.
CERN officials say an investigation is now underway, and they can not yet speak on the identities of those involved.
The incident is pretty much just a dumb prank done in poor taste, but it’s got people wondering how it could have been performed on the grounds of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research without there being anyone around to put a stop to it.
CERN told the AFP that IDs are checked by all researchers visiting the grounds, day and night, but it looks like what they do once they get access is less carefully monitored. Technical and experimental facilities are much more closely guarded.
"CERN welcomes every year thousands of scientific users from all over the world and sometimes some of them let their humour go too far. This is what happened on this occasion," the spokesperson said.
While this is squarely on the 'lame' end of the scale as far as pranks go, don’t let that ruin your impression of CERN’s official sense of humour.
On April 1 this year, CERN teamed up with the Royal Albert Hall in London for an April Fool’s Joke, declaring in a press release that the 145-year-old concert hall would be used as a scaled-down version of the Large Hadron Collider.
So just as particles are blasted around the 27 km-long underground tunnel of the LHC in Switzerland, so they can smash into each other at energy levels higher than has been achieved by any other facility, particles would be hurled through the circular corridors surrounding the concert hall… or something.
"We’ve played host to everyone from The Beatles to Adele, but what we’ve never had here before is particles. This project will change all that," the Hall’s chief operating officer, James Ainscough, told the press.
"We were as impressed as anyone when CERN announced that they had found the ‘God particle’, but frankly they don’t seem to have done much since, so we thought we would help."
Our favourite part of the whole thing has to be this adorable sign:
Look out for particles today, guys. Try to avoid them if you can.